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Drug traffickers hacking U.S. border drones to gain illegal entry into the U.S.

January 3, 2016  |  Posted by: JammedUp Staff
Drug traffickers hacking U.S. border drones to gain illegal entry into the U.S.

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According to the US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the US Customs and Border Protection (CBP), drug traffickers have managed to hack unmanned air vehicles (UAVs, drones) to gain illegal entry into the United States.

US law enforcement agencies utilize UAV drones, especially along the border.

Unlike the million dollar drones used by the military, because of the limited budget, the UAVs used by law enforcement agencies are much smaller.

The drones used by U.S. Border Patrol are vulnerable to attacks on the vehicle’s GPS system, which led to the removal of certain drone modules, including a module that ensures the drone’s security against a GPS spoofing attack.

Spoofing of a GPS system is a simple kind of cyber-attack, which sends GPS receivers false data.

Each UAV has a GPS receiver, used to receive data from off-orbit satellites and navigate along the border, watching for illegal crossers.

Drug traffickers discovered that each drone vehicle was provided with information from satellites to navigate the border to watch for individuals crossing illegally, and use spoofing techniques on the GPS to send the wrong coordinates.

Once the UAV receives the wrong coordinates, it leaves its designated patrol area after thinking it has corrected course and heads to a zone using the wrong coordinates.

After a drone leaves the area where the GPS spoofing device is located, it attempts to right the system again and travels back the right patrol area. Then the process would start all over again until the drone vehicle is either forced to return to base, runs out of fuel and or the traffickers crossed the border and turned off the jamming unit.

The only way to prevent such scenarios from happening is by using anti-GPS-spoofing hardware within the drone’s makeup.

As Michael Buscher, CEO of Vanguard Defense Industries told Defense One reporters, this is a very costly module, and also very bulky. Adding such equipment to a drone is not only very expensive but also affects the drone’s flight time, something that both the DHS and CBP are not willing to accept.

Right now, the only way to plug these security holes is for the DHS to wait for technology to advance and cut down on its manufacturing prices. To accelerate this process, the DHS also started funding a series of research programs.

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