Detecting Drone Surveillance with Traffic Analysis
This is clever:
Researchers at Ben Gurion University in Beer Sheva, Israel have built a proof-of-concept system for counter-surveillance against spy drones that demonstrates a clever, if not exactly simple, way to determine whether a certain person or object is under aerial surveillance. They first generate a recognizable pattern on whatever subject — a window, say — someone might want to guard from potential surveillance. Then they remotely intercept a drone’s radio signals to look for that pattern in the streaming video the drone sends back to its operator. If they spot it, they can determine that the drone is looking at their subject.
In other words, they can see what the drone sees, pulling out their recognizable pattern from the radio signal, even without breaking the drone’s encrypted video.
The details have to do with the way drone video is compressed:
The researchers’ technique takes advantage of an efficiency feature streaming video has used for years, known as “delta frames.” Instead of encoding video as a series of raw images, it’s compressed into a series of changes from the previous image in the video. That means when a streaming video shows a still object, it transmits fewer bytes of data than when it shows one that moves or changes color.
That compression feature can reveal key information about the content of the video to someone who’s intercepting the streaming data, security researchers have shown in recent research, even when the data is encrypted.