Amazon Prime Drones Face Air Piracy From Hackers [Video]
Pirates used to sail the seven seas looking for gold and other valuables, but a new form of piracy might try to steal packages from the air.
Almost as soon as Amazon announced the Amazon Prime Drone program to deliver packages to customers in as little as 30 minutes, a security analyst and former hacker Samy Kamkar announced Skyjack, a drone that can hack the programming of the drones and take them over. On Kamkar's drone hacking website, he decribes how SkyJack is able to take control of the airborne robots while they are in the air:
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"SkyJack is a drone engineered to autonomously seek out, hack, and wirelessly take over other drones within WiFi distance, creating an army of zombie drones under your control."
On Kamkar's Youtube channel he describes how he was able to figure out how to take over the delivery drones using hardware that costs less than $400:
"I developed a drone that flies around, seeks the wireless signal of any other drone in the area, forcefully disconnects the wireless connection of the true owner of the target drone, then authenticates with the target drone -- pretending to be its owner -- then feeds commands to it and all other possessed zombie drones at my will."
While the current SkyJack drone is able to take over other airborne quadcopters, so far the program is only able to take on similar Parrot drones like the SkyJack. The Parrot AR.Drone 2 that Kamkar uses costs around $300. Additional equipment includes a Linux-based computer, a wireless transmitter and a USB battery pack.
Once Kamkar's program is able to forcefully disconnect the targeted drone and SkyJack puts the user in control, the hacker can use the drone's camera and an iPad to control the new "zombie drone." It is unclear how many drones can be controlled at once, but Kamkar claims that the hacking program can be used from the ground to forcefully take over a drone.
This type of hacking could seriously damage any attempt to have packages delivered to customers through small remote-controlled drones. The program could be used to steal packages right out of the sky, which could cause users to simply request their packages get delivered the traditional way. However, the Amazon Prime Air drones are still prototypes that have a target launch date of 2015, and the SkyJack system has not cracked their programming yet. Regardless, this news is indeed worrying for those hoping to get parcels from Amazon much quicker than they are delivered today.