Security Alert - US Army Bans Chinese DJI Drones for Spying Concerns
Drones are hot right now. Everyone seems to want one, including your little kids. It's a chance to pilot your own craft without a license, you can survey the area around your drone fly-zone with an on-board camera, they light up and sound menacing - especially at night, and they have a lot of potential for both security and sales applications. Realtors are using them quite frequently now for their online listings, security companies are using them to do surveillance for events and of premises, and the military certainly has tremendous application for them. There is even a drone racing series! But, they are also controversial.
Image: DJI's popular Phantom II Drone
Some states, like Massachusetts, are enacting laws regarding drone usage and violations, and we expect that more laws in other states will be enacted in the future. Most recently, the U.S. Army has immediately removed and banned the use of drones made in China for concerns over security. In one report, leadership commanded that all Chinese drones being used for U.S. Army application were shut down and batteries removed STAT. To compliment this story, a few weeks ago the Chinese made Foscam home security cameras (which we do not use at GenX Security) were found to be easily hacked.
SUAS News followed up with the Department of Army regarding this recent ban of Chinese-made DJI brand drones to get more information.
August 4, 2017
According to a U.S. Army memo obtained by sUAS News, the U.S. Army Research Lab and U.S. Navy have concluded that there are operational risks associated with DJI equipment, a move that was run up the flag pole last month but kept under wraps.
Speaking to sUAS News via e-mail, DJI’s Public Relations Manager, Michael Perry said:
We are surprised and disappointed to read reports of the U.S. Army’s unprompted restriction on DJI drones as we were not consulted during their decision. We are happy to work directly with any organization, including the U.S. Army, that has concerns about our management of cyber issues.
We’ll be reaching out to the U.S. Army to confirm the memo and to understand what is specifically meant by ‘cyber vulnerabilities’.
Update – A U.S. Army spokesperson had the following to say via e-mail:
“We can confirm that guidance was issued; however, we are currently reviewing the guidance and cannot comment further at this time.”
Three weeks ago we ran a special show to highlight concerns being raised by cyber security experts.
DEPARTMENT OF THE ARMY
OFFICE OF THE DEPUTY CHIEF OF STAFF, G-3/5/7
400 ARMY PENTAGON
WASHINGTON, DC 20310-0400
MEMORANDUM FOR RECORD
2 August 2017
SUBJECT: Discontinue Use of Dajiang Innovation (DJI) Corporation Unmmaned Aircraft Systems
a. Army Research Laboratory (ARL) report, “DJI UAS Technology Threat and User Vulnerabilities,” dated 25 May 2017 (Classified).
b. Navy memorandum, “Operational Risks with Regards to DJI Family of Products,” dated 24 May 2017.
2. Background: DJI Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) products are the most widely used non-program of record commercial off-the-shelf UAS employed by the Army. The Army Aviation Engineering Directorate has issued over 300 separate Airworthiness Releases for DJI products in support of multiple organizations with a variety of mission sets. Due to increased awareness of cyber vulnerabilities associated with DJI products, it is directed that the U.S. Army halt use of all DJI products. This guidance applies to all DJI UAS and any system that employs DJI electrical components or software including, but not limited to, flight computers, cameras, radios, batteries, speed controllers, GPS units, handheld control stations, or devices with DJI software applications installed.
3. Direction: Cease all use, uninstall all DJI applications, remove all batteries/storage media from devices, and secure equipment for follow on direction.
4. Point of Contact: Headquarters, Department of the Army G-3/5/7 Aviation Directorate, 703-693-3552
JOSEPH ANDERSON Lieutenant General, GS Deputy Chief of Staff, G-3/5/7
Some more background info:
“I am now sharing that there is situation related to gathering of UAS-related information that has been ongoing for a length of time. It involves the use of DJI drones to collect audio, visual and telemetry data on all flights across the Globe. The details shared here are perhaps known to a limited number of the worldwide owners and users of the DJI technology. I feel that this sort of knowledge is something that every UAS pilot and every person/company/agency needs to understand related to your aerial missions.”
Government Agencies, it is alleged, have security concerns. They are worried about just what data might be being shared unwittingly.
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