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Insurer Warns of Drone Hacking Threat

Insurance giant Allianz has warned that the increasing volume of drones in our skies could present a major cybersecurity threat, potentially even resulting in loss of life.

So-called unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) have rapidly expanded from their original use in the military and are set to become part of a multi-billion-dollar business, the firm claimed in a new report, Rise of the Drones: Managing the Unique Risks Associated with Unmanned Aircraft Systems.

In fact, PwC estimates they will take $127bn worth of human work by 2020, while the European Commission has claimed 10% of the global civil aviation fleet could be unmanned in a decade.

However, there are attendant risks, notably the prospect of hackers taking remote control of a drone “causing a crash in the air or on the ground resulting in material damage and loss of life.”

The report continues:

“The term ‘spoofing’ refers to attempts to take control of a UAS via hacking the radio signal and sending commands to the aircraft from another control station. This is a very real risk for UAS since they are controlled by radio or Wi-Fi signals. Companies which claim to sell devices to specifically bring down or take control of UAS can be found online.”

There’s also a risk of data loss from the UAS if a hacker manages to intercept the signal, or hack the company gathering the data.

Cesare Garlati, chief security strategist of the non-profit prpl Foundation, has also argued in the past that drones represent a potentially attractive target for hackers.

He claimed that industry needs to find a way for regulators to improve the security/safety of such devices whilst preserving the right of the consumer to tweak and improve their own gear.

“Look in the stores and you’ll see unmanned aerial vehicles everywhere. I’m not talking about military grade drones here, more like tiny flying machines you can attach cameras and control with a smartphone. As of now they’re not regulated. But the potential for these flying consumer electronics products to cause serious harm to others is undeniable,” he explained.

“Just think about the havoc that one could cause if it were dropped onto a freeway, or flown into a plane on take-off. Are we confident they can’t be hacked? No – especially as systems with far more R&D spend like connected cars, smart rifles and aircraft guidance systems – have already been hacked by researchers.”

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