UT geeks win $1000 bet from Homeland Security — by hacking and taking control of a drone
A group of researchers led by Professor Todd Humphreys from the University of Texas at Austin Radionavigation Laboratory recently succeeded in raising the eyebrows of the US government. With just around $1,000 in parts, Humphreys’ team took control of an unmanned aerial vehicle owned by the college, all in front of the US Department of Homeland Security.
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…
…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.
“Spoofing a GPS receiver on a UAV is just another way of hijacking a plane,” Humphreys tells Fox. The real danger here, however, is that the government is currently considering plans that will allow local law enforcement agencies and other organizations from coast-to-coast to control drones of their own in America’s airspace…
Domestic drones are already being used by the DHS and other governmental agencies, and several small-time law enforcement groups have accumulated UAVs of their own as they await clearance from the Federal Aviation Administration. Indeed, by 2020 there expects to be tens of thousands of drones diving and dipping through US airspace. With that futuristic reality only a few years away, Humphreys’ experiment suggests that the FAA may have their work cut out for them if they think it’s as easy as just approving domestic use anytime soon…
I love it. Just because you copped a good civil service gig doesn’t mean you should get so far out of touch with what serious geeks are capable of.
The crew at University of Texas deserves a special medal — and maybe a few study contracts worth more than $1000 — for sticking their finger in the bureaucratic eye.
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