Texas college researchers hacked into and hijacked a drone of the U.S. Homeland Security right in front of the eyes of the officials operating it.
Using a technique called ‘spoofing’ where a signal from hackers imitates the one sent to the drone’s on-board GPS, the researchers managed to take control of a small but powerful drone in mid-air.
The hostile takeover of the unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) owned by the college was done before the weary eyes of DHS officials.
During the experiment, the small red drone soared into the sky following a clear set of commands entered into its computer.
Shortly after, the aircraft veered to the side, making it obvious that it was no longer following its original orders. Then, it hurtled toward the ground as if given a self-destruct command and was saved in the last moment.
And the hijacking was just for a $1,000 wager.
But the incident has unnerved officials, as the spoofing has made it possible for anyone with a $1,000 and a plan to turn a harmless UAV into a missile and crash it into a building.
The hijackers team led by Professor Todd Humphreys at Austin Radio-navigation Laboratory said his team for a few hundred dollars was able to build the most sophisticated spoofing system yet that tricked the drone into following the new set of commands.
“Spoofing a GPS receiver on a UAV is just another way of hijacking a plane,” Prof. Humphreys said.