08.06.12

Students hack drone—because the DHS needed to know.

If thousands of armed, unmanned, and GPS-reliant drones buzzing over our borders ever seemed way too precarious to believe they were making us safer, here's why: Researchers at the University of Texas' Radionavigation Laboratory led by Professor Todd Humphrey took command of a UT-owned UAV, because Department of Homeland Security thought it'd be a good time to see how easy it was, RT reports.

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After being challenged by his lab, the DHS dared Humphreys’ crew to hack into a drone and take command. Much to their chagrin, they did exactly that.

Humphrey tells Fox News that for a few hundreds dollar his team was able to “spoof” the GPS system on board the drone, a technique that involves mimicking the actual signals sent to the global positioning device and then eventually tricking the target into following a new set of commands. And, for just $1,000, Humphreys says the spoofer his team assembled was the most advanced one ever built.

After all, reports Newser, domestic drones are likely to use the same unencrypted GPS signals provided to civilians, allowing seemingly anyone with $1,000 and the right research to hack into the system and harness a UAV for their own personal use.

A no-brainer, surely—because on the eve of a future of airborne, domestic drone hordes, shouldn't our capital precaution be protection from ourselves? Humphrey has a point:

"What if you could take down one of these drones delivering FedEx packages and use that as your missile?" Humphreys asks. “That’s the same mentality the 9-11 attackers had."