We hear it all the time in the news; drones are playing an increasingly prominent role in our society. The majority of the drone market currently serves the military and defense sector, but it won’t be long before they become a significant part of our daily lives. ABI Research predicts the commercial market for these drones will grow to more than $5.1 billion by 2019. Companies plan to expand their commercial use of drones to improve business efficiency across several industries, ranging from agriculture, engineering, law enforcement, conservation, research, manufacturing, and more. As this brings us closer to an automated society, organizations need to keep in mind that with all this innovation comes serious security concerns.
Future applications for drones:
- Delivery –from mundane household items to life-saving medical devices can be delivered faster and easier than conventional sources.
- Agriculture and farming –crop management and yield maximization reduce costs and prevent environmental damage.
- Monitoring and servicing –proactive and economical for facility management, construction site security, geological exploration, and aerial footage.
- Surveillance and reconnaissance –event and airport security, remote surveillance, and non-military reconnaissance to ensure the safety of an area before reaching it.
The growth of the drone market may sound like the exciting plot of the next futuristic movie, but this technological advancement comes with several caveats. The first is the inherent need for the government to implement UAV flight regulations. If the commercial use of drones takes off as predicted, there is currently no infrastructure to handle an increase in air traffic.
The biggest security concern is the immense amounts of data generated by these flying IoT devices and how to protect it from cyberthreats. Drones can measure almost anything from any location, one of its most attractive functions for businesses, but this translates into extremely large amounts of data that needs to be transferred from the flying device and stored. The communication of all this drone data opens new doors for cybercriminals to exploit the current vulnerabilities of UAVs.
A drone can be compromised by a hacker using three techniques. With direct access to the physical drone, an individual can tamper with components and infect it with malware. Remote attacks can be used to hijack and decrypt data being transmitted. The last technique targets the device sensors and uses data spoofing. Spoofing GPS coordinates, for example, can trick a drone into following a hacker’s GPS signals instead of its original signals. With these techniques, a hacker could hijack a delivery drone, resulting in an entirely new kind of fraud. Even worse, a hacker could compromise a law enforcement or government drone, and obtain sensitive information that could threaten national security.
Drone manufacturers and users alike need to prioritize data security as the market continues to mature from a hobby to a commercially-viable service. Promoting the security conversation will push data security to grow alongside these new technology innovations rather than struggling to keep up. The drones themselves require necessary security to prevent unwanted parties from capitalizing on current vulnerabilities to gain control of the devices. The mountains of generated data are the other daunting concern. The IT department of any company that chooses to adopt the commercial use of drones will need to be prepared to handle the surge of data. The data needs to be protected while in transit and at rest while stored in the cloud. For maximum security, the data will require strong hardware-driven encryption to keep malicious outsiders out. By encrypting all data generated, companies and users can ensure that even in the event that a hacker gets his hands on your proprietary data, it will remain completely useless and prevent any loss of data or control.
As drones continue to evolve past personal use and into the commercial space, it is important not to lose sight of the importance of security. This will allow businesses and consumers to enjoy the benefits of innovation without the constant fear of cybercrime. The fast growth of technology markets like this make it easy to get distracted by the benefits business growth opportunities, but we must not forget that data breaches can cost millions and can easily outweigh the original benefits.