Hacker Releases Software to Hijack Commercial Drones


amazon droneNo sooner had Amazon.com founder Jeff Bezos announced plans to deliver small packages via flying drone than a well known hacker has released technical plans for an interceptor drone able to hijack other drones.

“SkyJack,” says the creator claims on his website, can put “an army of zombie drones under your control.”

The man behind Skyjack is Samy Kamkar, who achieved a high level of infamy when he released a computer worm  seven years ago that temporarily took down the MySpace social networking site.

Bezos announced on the CBS News magazine “60 Minutes” on Dec. 1 his plans for Amazon Prime Air —in which the online retailer would deliver small packages within 30 minutes via drone. The website The Verge reported two days later that UPS also is looking into a drone fleet for rapid delivery.

A University of Texas, Austin, professor who last year showed the Department of Homeland Security that it is possible to take control of an unmanned helicopter said small commercial drones such as those sold in stores across the country are quite vulnerable to hacking.

But Prof. Todd Humpries told NBC News that Amazon would be more likely concerned about lawsuits from drone accidents than lost delivery craft.

"Amazon is an enormous company with deep pockets," he told the network Dec. 4. "If somebody takes down one of their drones and keeps it in their garage as a trophy, or even takes down five drones, do you think Amazon is going to bat an eye? No. They'll just send out another one."

In a video on his website, Kamkar explains that the hunter drone “flies around looking for other drones. As soon as it finds any other drone it hacks into that drone’s wireless network, disconnects the owner and then takes over … and begins controlling them under my command.”

And if the hijacked drone is mounted with a working camera the hacker can view the video in real time, he said.

After being busted for the MySpace attack in 2005 Kamkar was barred from using computers for three years Kamkar, according to multiple news sources. Since then he has gone legit as a consultant hacker – using his skills to find weak points and flaws in corporate and government sites.

Turning other people’s drones into zombies requires a Parrot AR.Drone 2.0 quadricopter, which weighs less than a pound, a Rasberry Pi, a USB battery, an Alfa AWUSO36H wireless transmitter, aircrack-ng, nod-ar-drone, node.js and Kamkar’s SkyJack software, he says on his website.

It can work as well from the ground using land-based Linux devices, with a capability of hijacking drones within radio range, he claims.

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