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With the increasing automation and widespread use of unmanned aerial systems, potential cyber-attacks on aerial fleets are already a major concern. A recent collaboration between academic and commercial parties has led to the development of a new autonomous car system that will secure unmanned aerial systems, supplying safer and more secure operation through message authentication.

OnBoard Security, which expertizes in Internet of Things (IoT) security, announced that a graduate student team at the Johns Hopkins University Information Security Institute (JHUISI) has successfully demonstrated the protection of UAVs from cyber-attacks.

The company collaborated with the research effort providing mentoring, industry insight, and the use of their Aerolink communication security libraries. Aerolink is a security solution for Vehicle-to-Vehicle communications, and this is the first implementation of Aerolink outside of the automotive industry. Aerolink runs in software or deeply integrated with cryptographic acceleration hardware (cryptography involves securing the secrecy of messages).

According to, the Johns Hopkins project aims at implementing a secure Sense and Avoid (SAA) system to avoid collisions in real-time using cryptographically-augmented Automatic Dependent Surveillance – Broadcast (ADS-B) messages. Without cryptographic protections, such as those provided by Aerolink security libraries, current UAV’s are vulnerable to packet forging (interfering with an established network connection), replay, message modification and Man-in-the-Middle (MITM) attacks. Aerolink provides message authentication and integrity checking to protect against all of these attacks.

The security schemes designed for connected and autonomous vehicles utilizing high volumes of signed messages in a limited bandwidth environment make Aerolink ideal for unmanned aircraft, says the company.