Someone is flying a drone over Gatwick Airport in order to disrupt service:
Chris Woodroofe, Gatwick’s chief operating officer, said on Thursday afternoon there had been another drone sighting which meant it was impossible to say when the airport would reopen.
He told BBC News: “There are 110,000 passengers due to fly today, and the vast majority of those will see cancellations and disruption. We have had within the last hour another drone sighting so at this stage we are not open and I cannot tell you what time we will open.
“It was on the airport, seen by the police and corroborated. So having seen that drone that close to the runway it was unsafe to reopen.”
The economics of this kind of thing isn’t in our favor. A drone is cheap. Closing an airport for a day is very expensive.
I don’t think we’re going to solve this by jammers, or GPS-enabled drones that won’t fly over restricted areas. I’ve seen some technologies that will safely disable drones in flight, but I’m not optimistic about those in the near term. The best defense is probably punitive penalties for anyone doing something like this—enough to discourage others.
There are a lot of similar security situations, in which the cost to attack is vastly cheaper than 1) the damage caused by the attack, and 2) the cost to defend. I have long believed that this sort of thing represents an existential threat to our society.
EDITED TO ADD (12/23): The airport has deployed some anti-drone technology and reopened.
EDITED TO ADD (1/2): Maybe there was never a drone.
Posted on December 21, 2018 at 6:24 AM •
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.
Research paper and video.
Posted on January 24, 2018 at 5:28 AM •
This very interesting essay looks at the future of military robotics and finds many analogs in nature:
Imagine a low-cost drone with the range of a Canada goose, a bird that can cover 1,500 miles in a single day at an average speed of 60 miles per hour. Planet Earth profiled a single flock of snow geese, birds that make similar marathon journeys, albeit slower. The flock of six-pound snow geese was so large it formed a sky-darkening cloud 12 miles long. How would an aircraft carrier battlegroup respond to an attack from millions of aerial kamikaze explosive drones that, like geese, can fly hundreds of miles? A single aircraft carrier costs billions of dollars, and the United States relies heavily on its ten aircraft carrier strike groups to project power around the globe. But as military robots match more capabilities found in nature, some of the major systems and strategies upon which U.S. national security currently relies—perhaps even the fearsome aircraft carrier strike group—might experience the same sort of technological disruption that the smartphone revolution brought about in the consumer world.
Posted on August 25, 2017 at 6:34 AM •
The US Army Research Agency is funding research into autonomous bot swarms. From the announcement:
The objective of this CRA is to perform enabling basic and applied research to extend the reach, situational awareness, and operational effectiveness of large heterogeneous teams of intelligent systems and Soldiers against dynamic threats in complex and contested environments and provide technical and operational superiority through fast, intelligent, resilient and collaborative behaviors. To achieve this, ARL is requesting proposals that address three key Research Areas (RAs):
RA1: Distributed Intelligence: Establish the theoretical foundations of multi-faceted distributed networked intelligent systems combining autonomous agents, sensors, tactical super-computing, knowledge bases in the tactical cloud, and human experts to acquire and apply knowledge to affect and inform decisions of the collective team.
RA2: Heterogeneous Group Control: Develop theory and algorithms for control of large autonomous teams with varying levels of heterogeneity and modularity across sensing, computing, platforms, and degree of autonomy.
RA3: Adaptive and Resilient Behaviors: Develop theory and experimental methods for heterogeneous teams to carry out tasks under the dynamic and varying conditions in the physical world.
And while we’re on the subject, this is an excellent report on AI and national security.
Posted on July 24, 2017 at 6:39 AM •
Researchers have configured two computers to talk to each other using a laser and a scanner.
Scanners work by detecting reflected light on their glass pane. The light creates a charge that the scanner translates into binary, which gets converted into an image. But scanners are sensitive to any changes of light in a room—even when paper is on the glass pane or when the light source is infrared—which changes the charges that get converted to binary. This means signals can be sent through the scanner by flashing light at its glass pane using either a visible light source or an infrared laser that is invisible to human eyes.
There are a couple of caveats to the attack—the malware to decode the signals has to already be installed on a system on the network, and the lid on the scanner has to be at least partially open to receive the light. It’s not unusual for workers to leave scanner lids open after using them, however, and an attacker could also pay a cleaning crew or other worker to leave the lid open at night.
The setup is that there’s malware on the computer connected to the scanner, and that computer isn’t on the Internet. This technique allows an attacker to communicate with that computer. For extra coolness, the laser can be mounted on a drone.
Here’s the paper. And two videos.
Posted on April 28, 2017 at 12:48 PM •
Not content with having a fleet of insecure surveillance drones, the state of Connecticut wants a fleet of insecure weaponized drones. What could possibly go wrong?
Posted on April 3, 2017 at 6:30 AM •
Researchers have demonstrated how a malicious piece of software in an air-gapped computer can communicate with a nearby drone using a blinking LED on the computer.
I have mixed feelings about research like this. On the one hand, it’s pretty cool. On the other hand, there’s not really anything new or novel, and it’s kind of a movie-plot threat.
EDITED TO ADD (3/7): Here’s a 2002 paper on this idea.
Posted on March 3, 2017 at 6:48 AM •
This would be a good idea, although I can’t imagine countries like the US, China, and Russia going along with it—at least not right now.
Posted on December 19, 2016 at 8:57 AM •
Good debate in the Wall Street Journal. This isn’t an obvious one; there are good arguments on both sides.
Posted on May 25, 2016 at 5:58 AM •
Drones can graffiti walls that no person can reach.
(Note that wired.com blocks ad blockers. My trick is to copy the page and then paste it into my text editor.)
Posted on April 25, 2016 at 12:07 PM •
Sidebar photo of Bruce Schneier by Joe MacInnis.