Hacker drone is armed for aerial assault

An Aerial Assault drone is displayed during a Def Con hacker gathering August 9, 2015 in Las Vegas. © Glenn Chapman
Hackers may have a new weapon in their arsenal: a drone loaded with software capable of probing any wireless network in range, and relaying the data to its operator. The drone is available to anyone willing to afford the $2,500 price tag.

David Jordan, a roboticist at the US-based company Aerial Assault, presented the drone at the Def Con hacking conference in Las Vegas on Sunday. He says the drone is loaded with an array of software capable of looking for weaknesses in any unsecured wireless networks in range, recording information about vulnerabilities, and capturing the precise GPS coordinates of the target.

Hackers call this procedure ‘penetration testing’, which is usually done through the existing networks. Arming a drone with the software, however, means that hackers can sneak up on networks not intended for communication with the outside world, and therefore usually less secure.

Earlier versions of hacking drones were able to pose as unsecured wireless networks, harvesting data from gullible users. Aerial Assault’s model is the first armed with automated hacking tools.

“There has never been this capability before,” Jordan told AFP.

Def Con, also known as DEFCON, is one of the world’s largest hacking conferences, held annually in Las Vegas since 1993. This year’s conference ran August 6-9.

Many hackers were already in town for the Black Hat USA conference, which ran August 1-6. Among the techniques featured at the conference was ‘Funtenna’, a hacking method capable of taking over household appliances.