A team of students from the University of Texas easily hijacked and took control of a Department of Homeland Security drone through a technique called ‘spoofing’, where a signal from hackers imitates the one sent to the drone’s on-board GPS. Spoofers are a giant leap forward in technology, and they can actually manipulate navigation computers with false information that looks real.
The ‘experiment’ reveals a gaping hole in the government’s plan to open US airspace to thousands of drones. “Spoofing a GPS receiver on a UAV is just another way of hijacking a plane,” said Professor Todd Humphreys. They could be turned into weapons. FOX News who exclusively reported the incident, states that with the right equipment, anyone can take control of a GPS-guided drone and make it do anything they want it to. Humphreys says the implications are very serious. “In 5 or 10 years you have 30,000 drones in the airspace,” he told Fox News. “Each one of these could be a potential missile used against us.”
In February, Congress ordered the FAA to come up with rules to allow government and commercial use of UAVs over American soil… plans which could eventually see police drones keeping watch over U.S. cities, UAVs monitoring transmission lines for power companies, or cargo plane-size drones guided by GPS pilotlessly delivering packages across the country.
The new rules have raised privacy concerns about a “surveillance society,” with UAVs tirelessly watching our every move 24/7. But Humphreys’ experiments have put an entirely new twist on the anxiety over drones.
“What if you could take down one of these drones delivering FedEx packages and use that as your missile? That’s the same mentality the 9-11 attackers had,” Humphreys told Fox News.
The potential consequences of GPS spoofing are nothing short of chilling. Humphreys warns that a terrorist group could match his technology, and in crowded U.S. airspace, cause havoc.
“I’m worried about them crashing into other planes,” he told Fox News. “I’m worried about them crashing into buildings. We could get collisions in the air and there could be loss of life…”
In the meanwhile, American citizens merrily remain passively ignorant towards their government who themselves have been stewing their citizen frogs in a pan of slowly boiling water… now nearly to the boiling point.