UAVs: Are They a Security Threat, Strategic War Tool or Sophisticated Eavesdropping Device?

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At a gathering of professional computer and Internet hackers in the city of Las Vegas, Nevada, some computer and Internet security sector experts have unveiled an Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) that can take to the air and tap into computer and network systems through their wireless links. The concept behind the UAV is not an original one as articles have been written long ago of such an idea, as well as Cold War-era rumors and stories of Unidentified Flying Objects (UFOs) hovering atop concealed Intercontinental Ballistic Missile (ICBM) silos and installations, causing them to close down inexplicably.

These stories about UFOs might seem to be a little farfetched and therefore untrue, much in the same way that the best antivirus and anti-malware programs have been once considered. But whether they are valid or not is not the focus of this article. However, the hacking and surveillance method that is employed by the UAV is not relatively new; the American military is known to have knowledge of the method and is aware of its uses. One can assign its provenance way back over 40 years and it is new only in the sense that it is not often encountered. Even so, we will need to look further into this relatively new technological breakthrough.

An article dated on the 6th day of August, 2011 and created by Glenn Chapman for PhysOrg.com bears the title, “Hacker drone launches airborne cyber attacks.” In it, Chapman wrote that computer security professionals and experts have produced a miniature UAV that is capable of initiating airborne-based cyber intrusions and attacks, and intercepting and recording calls made via mobile phone; it can even be modified to carry a so-called “dirty bomb” or miniaturized nuclear device. It can run software that can encroach upon wireless or Wi-Fi networks, cellphone and telecoms networks that follow the Global System for Mobile Communications (GSM) standard, and Bluetooth-connected networks. The miniaturized UAV can gain access into wirelessly connected networks and unprotected Wi-Fi “hot spots” by acquiring data packets that are sent within and through them and using these packets of information as access points to get inside the networks. It can steal the account information and data of mobile phones that use the GSM standard, data that is used by telecoms firms to bill users for outbound mobile calls that they had made. The creators of the MAV and experienced hackers can also enable it to mimic cellular phone and telecoms towers and have it “listen in” on calls made and received by unsuspecting users.

The mere existence of this MAV should drive you to better protect your home-based or personal Wi-Fi network or those that you use at work and never leave them unprotected because at any moment, computer hackers would attempt to gain access to them. This should also force large firms and government institutions that run large-scale computer and network systems to restrict access to their networks and disallow their users to transfer too much data within them. The data that they may have might be of a personal, secret, financial or high-level nature that might prove valuable to any experienced hacker. You can start doing this by installing and running the best antivirus product there is available.

Experienced computer users know that they can gain access into a Wi-Fi network by simply parking their car or van within an area that is covered by that network and attempt to infiltrate into that wirelessly connected network from there. This is a common practice for Silicon Valley-based computer experts and professionals who do these attempts to determine the level of protection that exists within the wireless networks of various firms and companies that work in the area. If you don’t have the best antivirus program available to secure your PC or laptop from hacking attempts, there would be a high probability that your computer will be compromised soon. The American military’s cyber warfare and intelligence section can also employ small-scale model planes, air vehicles, and even miniaturized UAVs to fly over areas that are covered by wireless-linked networks. Belligerent nations and countries are also expected to take interest in this technology and create copies of their own; at the same time hackers and other criminally-inclined individuals can use them to get into our wirelessly linked networks and make off with our critical and personal data.

So the next time you make calls on your cellphone or connect to the Internet using Wi-Fi or any wirelessly enabled network, you should think twice before doing so. Somewhere, somehow, there would be those who are capable of encroaching into your wirelessly connected network to steal away your pertinent personal and business data. MAVs are only the beginning; there would be other technologies and methods that will be discovered that can be more discreet and dangerous than the first. You should keep them all in mind when you are planning to further bolster your computer and Internet security, which you can do by installing best antivirus applications in your PC or laptop, and being more careful when you make your calls using your cellphone.