Team Demonstrates Ease of Taking over Automated Drones
June 26, 2012 9:15 AM
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Team repeatedly takes over flying drone using $1000 DIY spoofer
Professor Todd Humphreys and his team from the University of Texas at Austin's Radionavigation Laboratory recently demonstrated the ease with which hackers can take over drones that rely on GPS signals. The ability to control a flying unmanned aircraft by spoofing the GPS signal should come as no surprise, considering it was used against the United States by Iran. In that instance, the U.S. drone was tricked into simply landing where the
Iranian hackers wanted it
According to the University of Texas team, there is a concern that compromised drones could be turned into weapons. The FAA is set to open skies over the United States to drone fleets for different uses
including surveillance by law enforcement officials
Humphreys opines, "Spoofing a GPS receiver on a UAV is just another way of hijacking a plane."
The scary part of the demonstration given by the professor and his team is that anyone with the right tools can take over the GPS-guided drone. Spoofing is when technology is used against drone that is able to manipulate navigation computers with false information that the drone sees as real. Humphreys and his team used what they call the most advanced spoofer ever built, and it costs only $1,000 to construct.
The GPS spoofer is able to send signals to the flying drone that are stronger than those from GPS satellites in orbit. The attack Humphreys demonstrated begins by matching the signal of the GPS system so the drone believes nothing has changed. Once the drone is fooled into following his GPS signal, his own commands are sent to the onboard computer, giving the team complete control of the drone.
, "In 5 or 10 years you have 30,000 drones in the airspace. Each one of these could be a potential missile used against us."
Humphreys and his team made a trip to the White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico where officials from the FAA and the Department of Homeland Security watched as Humphrey and his team repeatedly took control of over a drone from a nearby hilltop. The Department of Homeland Security is currently working with researchers like Humphreys and others to identify and mitigate the possibility of GPS interference.
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RE: That's pretty bad
6/26/2012 5:35:32 PM
To take over a full control of a UAV wouldn't be that easy.
Most UAVs operate using a dedicated satellite link. The beam width (uplink) on a satellite link is very thin and extremely focused at the dish on the satellite. It emanates from a small parabolic dish so anything that is not in front of the dish's parabolic aperture can receive or transmit to the dish. So to jam the link you would need to have a few things going.
1.) You need to have your jamming signal in line of sight of the UAVs parabola. (ie almost directly between the UAV and the satellite. )
2.) You would have to be at a higher altitude than the UAV.
4.) Your Jamming signal has to actually be able to interfere with the link. Most use satcom freq. hopping encrypted) radios and have enough frequency excursion that the embedded channels contain multiple redundancies to overcome any jamming attempt.
There are many other factors but this is the down and dirty.
Now that is for the larger Military drones, many of which are being sought after for domestic surveillance. Now if things are going askew with GPS you still have a man in the loop back at the ground station who can take over manual flight operations and recover the drone.
You can skew the civilian GPS as demonstrated in the article, but actually getting into the command and control channels, or even the general "housekeeping" channels, is a far more challenging prospect.
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