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UK Public: Drones Are National Security Risk

The British public is dead-set against the use of drones, with the vast majority believing that as they continue to represent a national security risk and that cyber experts must do more to mitigate the threat from above.

Think tank Parliament Street polled 2000 members of the public to compile its latest report, Drones 4 U.

It appears as if recent incidents at two London airports has had a major impact on the public perception of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs).

Three-quarters (75%) believe them to be a national security threat, with only 2% disagreeing, according to the report.

Over a third (38%) said they want to see drones banned altogether, but a larger number (83%) backed a mandatory licensing system for owners similar to firearm regulations.

The vast majority (83%) of those surveyed also believe the UK is failing to keep up with the threat of developments in drone technology, and a similar number (84%) want cyber experts to do more to help during serious incidents.

Drones flying over Gatwick Airport caused chaos last month as both runways were forced to close, leading to an estimated 800 cancelled flights affecting 120,000 passengers over several days. The incident was a much worse repeat of a 2017 closure of the same airport due to UAVs when a runway was shut for 14 minutes.

A similar problem hit Heathrow Airport earlier this month.

Such incidents are becoming increasingly frequent. According to Parliament Street, drones have flown dangerously close to passenger aircraft in the airspace around Gatwick at least five times over the past four years.

There are also concerns over drones potentially being hijacked by hackers and used to cause incidents like the ones above.

PwC warned last year that GPS receivers are a major weakness in civilian drones as they’re dependent largely on unencrypted signals.

“Without secure authentication mechanisms, location spoofing is possible. The internal measurement units rely on data from other sensors on the drone and measure direction of travel — if they are fed incorrect information, the drone’s course or altitude could be altered,” it added in a blog post.

“Another potential vulnerability is the functionality to configure a drone to ignore communications from the ground during flight. This is meant to be a safety control, but it could be attractive to threat actors looking to cause harm … it is important that end-to-end security is employed to secure any drone-enabled service.”

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