Forget UFOs, Watch Out for UAVs

Sometime Last Thursday before this deployment, we had a little game we used to play. Some of my army buddies and I would climb the nearby mountains and spend the day observing Juarez (being Scouts after all). We had great fun watching the TTPs of the warring drug cartels and critiquing their work. One day we noticed a small object flying over the city, swooping low and then orbiting certain areas. Upon a closer look we figured it was some time of modified RC plane or ad hoc UAV.

Then at this year’s Black Hat, researchers Mike Tassey and Richard Perkins unveiled their drone, made from commercially available parts.

This drone plane runs on Arduino and would cost you $6,000. This drone is based on FMQ-117B U.S. Army target drone and equipped it with Wi-Fi and hacking tools — IMSI catcher and antenna to spoof a GSM cell tower and hack calls. What’s more? It can launch a dictionary attack on the network using its database of 340million words.

The device onboard tricks phones to disable encryption, and records call details and content before they’re routed to their intended receiver through VoIP or redirected to anywhere else the hacker wants to send them.

So sooner rather than later, expect the face of cyber and actual crime to experience a similar rapid evolution as the military has in the use of these powerful tools. As they used to say on, “TK can see your house from here,” and soon anybody will be able to do that and more. Tinfoil hats may yet come back in style.


  1. says

    I’ve always wondered why “the bad guys”* haven’t tried making explosive-carrying r/c drones like this. If someone produced a $1000 drone that could carry a claymore mine, it could be incredibly disruptive.

    (* quoted because I’m not sure who the bad guys are, but the CIA sure has a lot of drones…)

    • says

      Well if the bad guys targeted the military, the second it got off the ground it would be tracked. Plus you would need to figure out how to beat the army’s jamming systems and good luck with that. A smart bad guy would launch, line up his glide path, and send it deadstick towards his target. As far as attacks against civilians…sucks to be you?

        • Mike de Fleuriot says

          Plus mortar rounds can be used by anyone who can open their fist, just drop it down the pipe. And you don’t even need a pipe, IED comes to mind.

          The real problem I think is urban areas, away from war zones which have lots of buildings to launch from. Pennsylvania Avenue, comes to mind.

          • says

            Thank the gods that most of the people with the required technical level of knowledge are nice enough. But I am sure it is only a manner of time before some human leans to kill with his new toy, we always seem to

  2. frankb says

    You are all terrorists, TERRORISTS I tell you. Who’s side are you on? Oh, all right, carry on then.

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