New technology protects drones from Cyber attacks


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How to protect drones from Cyber attacks? This problem is at the heart of a worldwide effort.

Engineering researchers from the University of Virginia (U. Va) and the Georgia Institute of Technology have successfully flight-tested scenarios which could threaten drones, including ground-based cyber-attacks.

The demonstration of U. Va’s System-Aware Cybersecurity concept and Secure Sentinel technology was part of a research project led by U. Va. engineers to detect cyber-attacks on unmanned aerial systems and respond to them.

A U. Va. release reports that to in order to fulfill missions, unmanned systems need to collect, process, store, and disseminate a wide array of data, which can reflect anything from troop movements to environmental data and strategic operations.

According to researchers, as the use of unmanned systems – including autonomous aircraft and even driverless cars – grows across a wide range of missions and services for the military, defense and commercial sectors, the protection and monitoring of these systems will be a growing priority.

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“Our research focuses on providing additional security by employing an onboard, secure monitoring subsystem to detect illogical behaviors relative to the expected profile of a system’s performance,” said Barry Horowitz, project leader and professor of systems and information engineering in U. Va.’s School of Engineering and Applied Science. “Detections can serve to initiate automated recovery actions and to alert operators of the attack. The cybersecurity Sentinel system includes design features that allow it to be far more secure than the system it monitors.”

According to HomeLand Security News Wire, the demonstration of attack scenarios, conducted over a five-day period in October, focused on the following critical areas:

  • GPS embedded-data manipulations
  • Waypoint manipulations originating from ground
  • Manipulation of onboard sources
  • Manipulation of critical metadata related to transmitted imagery and onboard surveillance systems
  • Payload control breaches

The inflight testing gauged the effectiveness of the countermeasure technology in hardening the unmanned system’s cyber agility and resiliency under attack conditions.