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Drones Now Big Hacking Target, First Drone Malware Identified

4 February 2015, 11:00 am EST By Christian de Looper Tech Times
Hacking of connected devices is gaining attention as the Internet of Things begins to take off. The first malware aimed at drones has been identified by researchers.  ( Ethan Miller | Getty Images )

Hacking aimed at connected devices, those falling under the auspices of the Internet of Things, is getting more prevalent and a first big piece of evidence is the discovery of malware, Maldrone, built specifically to infiltrate drones.

While drones are becoming more commonplace and being tapped for more uses, such as data collection, they're quickly becoming a bigger target for hackers who either want to seize the drone for nefarious purposes or the data being collected.

"Drones by nature are remotely operated, just like bank accounts, websites, smart home automation systems and so forth. Today it is the drones - in the future of cyber warfare, it will be UAV (Unmanned Armed Vehicles)," says Derek Manky, a global security strategist for Fortinet, told Tech Times.

"Military forces around the world are using UAVs to assist in missions as well as engage in warfare. Why risk human bodies if a machine can be sacrificed instead? Unfortunately, this is opening the door to a lot of scary scenarios moving forward as we further blend the physical world with the virtual," he adds.

As drones are essentially as smart as a smartphone, they are very easy to hack, explains Manky. In fact, drone hacking appears to be a cooperative and organized effort at this point, notes another expert.

"There has been a thriving community of drone hackers already and several open source projects available such as Skyjack which uses your drone to take over the drones around it created by the infamous Samy from the Samy Myspace worm fame," Greg Martin, CTO of ThreatStream, tells Tech Times.

Martin runs a drone group in Silicon Valley, but a good one with good intentions. His group is using drones to play games and create events, not for malicious purposes. The group is also raising awareness of drone security issues coming into play.

"Maldrone was the next logical step in proving drones can be commandeered for more nefarious purposes," he says.

Experts say it's time to start putting specific security measures in lace and greater attention on the issue of drone security, and spurring new tools to counteract the sophisticated malware targeting drone. One definite fix being suggested is a failspace option on drones which lets the owner or use cut all capability and functionality if control of the drone is overtaken by a malicous user or group.

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