Texas students hijack drone aircraft

Credit: Post based on writing for Geek.com

Missile launch is triggered from Sam’s iPhone

Look! Up in the sky…Is it a bird? a plane? No! It’s an unmanned Predator drone, hijacked by students! That’s right. Whiz kids from University of Texas at Austin took control of an aerial drone by altering its course.

The task was shockingly simple. Instead of hacking the primary control firmware, they fed its GPS mechanism a false signal, tricking the flying Al Qaeda hunter into heading wherever they wished, perhaps into the 3rd floor showers of the sorority. This was no fly-by-night operation (pardon the pun). The Department of Homeland asked students to try hacking the drone and gaining control. Was it expensive? It required only $1000 worth of equipment to seize control of a multi-million dollar piece of technology used by the US military and CIA.

The government became concerned about the vulnerability of drone aircraft after it became apparent that Iran had most likely taken control of a US drone and crashed it in Iranian territory several months ago. The Austin students, led by professor Todd Humphreys, used the GPS equipment to spoof the GPS signal being sent to the drone. Spoofing the signal means the students were able to trick the drone into mistaking their signal for the real one, allowing them to lead the drone astray. The aircraft being used employs the same unencrypted GPS signals used by government vehicles.

This hack presents a serious problem for proponents of using domestic drones. If any kid with $1000 and a little know-how can crash a drone into things or perhaps drop a payload!), well–that’s just not cricket. It is currently illegal to use drone aircraft in US airspace without special clearance from the FAA, and now it might take a little longer than expected for that to change.

RT via Popular Science

Time to end standoff w/Somali Pirates

The US and anyone who abhors extortionists are past due for action. As Capfrank observed, The time for a decisive, overwhelming and permanent solution is certainly at hand. This would not require a very big cost or risk to innocent life. This is not Iraq, Afghanistan or even North Korea. There is no issue here of state sovereignty, politics or abusive economic policies. It’s a bunch of thugs and murderers who say things like this:

“I lost the money I invested and I lost comrades. No forgiveness for Americans. Revenge! Our business will go on.”  He adds that, so far, he spent  $110,000 in the business venture (the hijacking!), including weapons, food and salaries.

It’s high time we stopped these criminals. A fairly straightforward plan:

  1. The many countries affected send 15 or 20 warships to block all ports
  2. Airplanes drop 5,000 paratroopers just outside the lawless zone controlled by Pirates.
  3. A blitz of PR via every available channel including air drop. It informs citizens that two simple dictums will be ridgidly enforced by seafaring nations of the region:

a) The citizenry has 48 hours to turn over the Pirates, their commanders and all available information with gusto (that means with zealous cooperation). In return, the commerce consortium waives charges for anyone who does not have direct blood on their hands (for example, prostitutes and barkeeps who profited from the inflow of ransom booty. They will be forgiven).

b) During this same period, all captive vessels, hostages and cargo are to be released escorted by unarmed individuals to the Allied command at Port xxxxxxxx. If we fail to process the return of all published vessels and individuals, local citizens will be held responsible.

After 48 hours, we enter, eliminate the cancer, and clean up whatever we can. At this point, it is no longer our responsibility to secure public safety. We do what is necessary to protect innocent hostages and global commerce. We certainly don’t take prisoners. *That* just isn’t necessary.

Sound like bullies? It needn’t get to that. It is amazing what the locals will do when they weigh their options. My father saw this in WW2 in North Africa and during the liberation of Sicily. Locals aren’t dumb. When presented with a better option, they will switch their allegiance in a heartbeat!

Ellery Davies comments on political affairs for both Yahoo and Google.