What happens if a hacker ‘hijacks’ all those drones Amazon wants to put in the sky?

by Bob Sullivan on December 5, 2013

A botnet of drones? Yikes.

A botnet of drones? Yikes.

Here’s the first of several stories I expect to see like this.  A security researcher claims he can hack his way into commercial drones and make them take instructions from him. Think of it as a flying botnet. Now there’s an appetizing idea!

(H/T to Threatpost and Dennis Fisher for calling this out.)

A hacker named Samy Kamkar released instructions for how to do it only hours after Amazon announced its plan (dream? fantasy? marketing stunt?) to fill American skies with flying packages.

Kamkar’s announcement has more truth than Amazon’s, but it comes with a lot of qualifiers. For starters, the drone has to be in WiFi range, as the hack relies on drones being set up to take instructions over WiFi.  And it works with certain brands configured certain ways. Amazon’s drones will, assuredly, have much better security controls!

So if you’ve imagined a sky full of drones suddenly hijacked and ordered from across the world to attack someone on the street Alfred Hitchcock style, well, that’s not much more likely than Amazon Prime Air working in the first place.

And if a drone is within your airspace, you’re a lot more likely to just shoot it down than try to hack. (Please, do yourself a favor and read this story about Walmart’s plan for dealing with Amazon’s drones. Think surface-to-air missiles.)

But you get the point. The law of unintended consequences is at play when we start sending these things into the air.  Somebody should probably give Kamkar a call.




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