Most drones in use in the United States come from China, with the majority of them coming from one company, DJI Technology. That makes the technology a major potential threat to people and infrastructure.
What Does the Homeland Security Threat Alert Say?
The DHS alert, which has not been released publicly, is titled “Chinese Manufactured Unmanned Aircraft Systems.” It reportedly notes that officials have “strong concerns about any technology product that takes American data into the territory of an authoritarian state that permits its intelligence services to have unfettered access to that data or otherwise abuses that access.”
It is not the first time the agency has issued an alert. An earlier release notes that drones may be “used for malicious schemes by terrorists, criminal organizations (including transnational organizations), and lone actors.” In an embedded video, the narrator notes ominously, “We’re not being paranoid.”
How Could Drones Spy On Us?
According to technology expert Luis Alvarez, the Chinese made drones “could basically call back the mothership. It could have some hidden code or hidden software that would allow a drone to report back to China about certain things.”
Alvarez notes that while people may assume it would be video data that would be transmitted it’s just as likely that they could be sending back pictures and information such as our use of drones or weather patterns. Given the prevalence of drones being used for business and government purposes, stolen information could give the Chinese government “insight into how we as a nation are using drones.”
The DHS notice urged companies to know where their drone data is stored by the drone vendor or third parties, how it’s being stored, where and for how long.
What Is the Main Source of Chinese Drones?
Alvarez notes that 80 percent of drones come from one company, DJI Technology. NPR reported that Johns Hopkins University researchers had discovered vulnerabilities in the DJI drones that could be exploited. The researchers could download and upload information to the drones.
The company responded by noting that it gives customers “full and complete control over how their data is collected, stored and transmitted.”
What Can We Do About This Issue?
If you use drones for your business, here are a few things that Alvarez suggests to keep your company and its data secure from outside threats:
- Be sure not to connect the drones to the internet. An internet connection is the easiest way to have your information compromised by a third party.
- Always change the default passwords that come with your drones. You’re not the only one who knows what those passwords are.
- Make sure to update your software often. Often, users do not bother to make upgrades to the software that comes with the drones.
- If your drones operate in a particularly sensitive area, do not use Chinese-made drones.
Device security, whether for phones, drones or other mobile devices, is increasingly critical for businesses. Alvarez Technology Group helps companies develop comprehensive network security solutions to keep users, data and businesses protected. To see how the leading technology solutions company can help your business, contact us today for an initial consultation.