Want to read Slashdot from your mobile device? Point it at m.slashdot.org and keep reading!

 



Forgot your password?
typodupeerror
Businesses China Privacy Security Technology

Homeland Security Claims DJI Drones Are Spying For China (engadget.com) 82

A memo from the Los Angeles office of the Immigration and Customs Enforcement bureau (ICE) says that the officials assess "with moderate confidence that Chinese-based company DJI Science and Technology is providing U.S. critical infrastructure and law enforcement data to the Chinese government." It also says that the information is based on "open source reporting and a reliable source within the unmanned aerial systems industry with first and secondhand access." Engadget reports: Part of the memo focuses on targets that the LA ICE office believes to be of interest to DJI. "DJI's criteria for selecting accounts to target appears to focus on the account holder's ability to disrupt critical infrastructure," it said. The memo goes on to say that DJI is particularly interested in infrastructure like railroads and utilities, companies that provide drinking water as well as weapon storage facilities. The LA ICE office concludes that it, "assesses with high confidence the critical infrastructure and law enforcement entities using DJI systems are collecting sensitive intelligence that the Chinese government could use to conduct physical or cyber attacks against the United States and its population." The accusation that DJI is using its drones to spy on the US and scope out particular facilities for the Chinese government seems pretty wacky and the company itself told the New York Times that the memo was "based on clearly false and misleading claims."
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

Homeland Security Claims DJI Drones Are Spying For China

Comments Filter:
  • by Nabeel_co ( 1045054 ) on Friday December 01, 2017 @05:35PM (#55661001) Homepage

    Huh, I've always wondered about this.

    Everything has powerful CPUs in them now and megabytes of firmware. It wouldn't be hard to do for almost anything.

    Add to the fact that most of everything comes from china, manufactured by the lowest bider, it wouldn't be hard.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      It has been argued that part of the reason to supplement farmers income is to make sure our food supply is secure. Ultimately we probably need to bring back more tech production so we can have semi secure sources to build common items.

      • by Freischutz ( 4776131 ) on Friday December 01, 2017 @06:20PM (#55661279)

        It has been argued that part of the reason to supplement farmers income is to make sure our food supply is secure. Ultimately we probably need to bring back more tech production so we can have semi secure sources to build common items.

        Oh gawd I hope not the farm subsidy model is more rotten that road kill in July. Every year the subsidies for the farmers get bigger in the name of food supply security (cue flag waving and patriotic music) and more of the demands on these people to actually try to minimise the level of subsides and work for a living evaporates. I can't comment on the situation in the US but with 40-60% of farmer's direct incomes are being paid by the taxpayer and/or the EU depending on where you live in Europe. Every time somebody tries to reform the money eating black hole that is the farm subsidy system the farmers and their lobbyists go ape shit throwing crazy and choke any reform effort at birth. The last thing we need is a tech sector that works like that, where all drive for excellence and innovation has been ritually murdered by special interests cliques, lobbyists and pork barrel politics.

        • Food security isn't about flag waiving and patriotic music, it's about basic defense. Maybe it's not needed anymore but the reality is that a disruption in food supply can be awful and maintaining not just production but local know-how is key to basic survival.

          Look no further than Venezuela right now for what can happen when international food supplies are interrupted and local production is insignificant. Venezuela imported everything for so many years that they don't even know how to produce food on mass

      • Agree entirely - we need to have production facilities in the US.

    • Add to this that DJI far outsells American-made drones, and America is a capitalistic government, and ...

    • by BlueStrat ( 756137 ) on Friday December 01, 2017 @06:30PM (#55661339)

      Huh, I've always wondered about this.

      Everything has powerful CPUs in them now and megabytes of firmware. It wouldn't be hard to do for almost anything.

      Add to the fact that most of everything comes from china, manufactured by the lowest bider, it wouldn't be hard.

      This accusation is pure hogwash.

      This is simply a propaganda push to move the Overton Window closer towards eventually disallowing the civilian purchase of non-US-approved drones without the (soon) US-required remote kill switches and similar spying ability to benefit US TLAs/LEAs. Can't have civilians with drones exposing corruption, incompetence, and things the government and those within it are not supposed to do.

      The US intelligence services dislike foreign states spying on US citizens and manipulating US citizens with propaganda, as they resent the competition.

      Strat

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by AHuxley ( 892839 )
        re "Can't have civilians with drones exposing corruption, incompetence, and things the government and those within it are not supposed to do."
        That will be great news for the states with ag gag laws. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/... [wikipedia.org]
        Civilians will have to pay for helicopters and light aircraft to once again get video of topics of interest to the public.
        No more low cost drone that can get viral video everyday.
        • Clear violation of the constitution. Getting the truth out hurts them far more than they could ever hope to sue your for in many cases. No such law would ever stop me, and I would never convict a person under any such law.

      • The only claim I made was to the difficulty of doing it, not the actual action of doing so.

        Fun fact, a lot of keyboards, like Apple keyboards have a few MB of NAND flash for their couple K of unsigned and unencrypted firmware.

        Someone made a proof of concept virus that infects those keyboards and uses the flash memory as a keylogger, thereby making the actual keynoard a keylogger.

        So this sort of thing has been possible for a while.

      • by raymorris ( 2726007 ) on Friday December 01, 2017 @08:09PM (#55661827) Journal

        If I ran the Chinese spy agency and I knew that my country was sending hundreds of thousands of drones to fly high resolution cameras over the US, I darn sure would look at tapping into that. I don't know if they *have*, but they are incompetent if they haven't considered it.

        • by ColdWetDog ( 752185 ) on Friday December 01, 2017 @10:00PM (#55662193) Homepage

          But - how do you do it and why would you bother?

          This whole thing smells pretty skanky. Yes, the DJI quadcopters can produce fairly high quality GPS tagged video. No questions there. And, should you be of a particular persuasion, you can upload that data to SkyPixel (owned by DJI) or YouTube or FaceBook or whatever. But you have to work a bit to do it. It's not automatic and there is absolutely no data to suggest that the drones and controllers are sending back unsolicited video. Further, if you don't take the images off the SD card, all you get is 720P - at best (from the downlink). Woot.

          So, some poor Chinese intelligence intern is pouring through gigabytes of pictures of Americans' back yards, local parks and smoggy sunsets in order to glean some tiny bits of information? Sucks to be him (or her). It would be a whole lot easier to just pick off areas of interest on Google Earth. Or even buy some satellite time. Or launch your own.

          • > Yes, the DJI quadcopters can produce fairly high quality GPS tagged video. ...
            > So, some poor Chinese intelligence intern is pouring through gigabytes of pictures of Americans' back yards, local parks and smoggy sunsets in order to glean some tiny bits of information?

            If I'm running Chinese intelligence, no I'm not looking at video of some backyard in Wisconsin. Except maybe one particular house in downtown Janesville, Wisconsin - where Speaker of the House Paul Ryan lives. I might be curious who is

          • First, it says they are targeting specific customers, so less video to analyze.

                Second, have you seen the latest software AI that can identify/classify video objects/contents in realtime or better? It's pretty amazing.

        • by AHuxley ( 892839 )
          All drone data flows to another nation, within the USA, UK to a staging server, a front company set up in the USA would be seen by the NSA and GCHQ.
          The FBI and MI5 then look at who is been used as a person, front company to fly the drone near sensitive sites and critical infrastructure.
          Field interviews, chat downs then follow. Two FBI agents to witness each others questions at the front door ask to be invited in for a chat.
          Better just to use human spies. Nothing for the GCHQ and NSA to detect moving
      • I take it you don't work in a worthwhile industry. Chinese spying is pretty prevalent in Canadian technology industries. We've lost billions in R&D to Chinese espionage. Denying it shows your ignorance to history and facts.
        • I take it you don't work in a worthwhile industry. Chinese spying is pretty prevalent in Canadian technology industries. We've lost billions in R&D to Chinese espionage. Denying it shows your ignorance to history and facts.

          You don't increase industrial/military security by reducing the freedom of the entire population. That path leads to effectively becoming the same as the enemy you were defending against from the population's perspective. It's the same wrongthink US TLAs use to justify mass domestic surveillance and the Chinese use to justify the Great Firewall.

          Sorry, but *I* am not the one lacking in knowledge and understanding of history and facts, here.

          Strat

  • Maybe they might notice the secure web is:

    a. not secure
    b. leaks like a sieve
    c. feeds Russian intel

    • by AHuxley ( 892839 )
      re c. feeds other nations intel
      Think of the epic struggle in the US, 5 eye and the NATO intelligence community over that cyber question.
      The NSA, GCHQ, CIA and MI6 are sure they have the cyber skill ready to alter that flow of raw cyber data in real time to any nation.
      The US fusion centers https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/... [wikipedia.org] have reports from critical infrastructure security and local law enforcement about consumer drones flying near their infrastructure.
      Ban the drones near US navy, US army sites, near cri
  • If huge amounts of new raw cyber data was flowing back to other nations from imported consumer devices all over the USA what are the Western cyber intelligence services doing?
    Buy US law enforcement drones that Western intelligence services have faith in?
    A short list of drones approved by the USA for use in the USA and NATO?
  • Unless DJI drones have a sim card in them, how the hell do they expect the drone to magically send the signal back to China? Typically drones are used in rural areas, since they are banned in most urban places, which means no WIFI either.

    If you hook up the drone to a computer to download the footage from the SD Card, it should be quite easy to determine if the drone is sending the footage home through your computer - just run netstat and look for weird connections, or a lot of data transfers through your ro

  • by CaptainDork ( 3678879 ) on Friday December 01, 2017 @06:22PM (#55661293)

    ... get to Google Maps?

    • ... get to Google Maps?

      Google Maps does not show drone-level detail, and not is "real time". Nor does Google Maps reveal particular interest in particular locations by particular people.

      The memo goes on to say that DJI is particularly interested in infrastructure like railroads and utilities, companies that provide drinking water as well as weapon storage facilities.

      On this point, I think these areas are areas that any commercial drone manufacturer would be interested in selling to, I mean who else?

      • It's inherently obvious you don't know what you're talking about.

        I work for a law firm that has access to near-real time Google maps.

        • It's inherently obvious you don't know what you're talking about.

          It is inherently obvious you are full of shit.

        • Your IT guy is probably laughing at you behind your back. The rest of us would be talking about map DATA. Next time you're looking at the map, check the lower corner for the date the data was taken.
          • Your IT guy is probably laughing at you behind your back. The rest of us would be talking about map DATA. Next time you're looking at the map, check the lower corner for the date the data was taken.

            Yes, I'm fully aware of how to tell when a map was produced, moron. And there is a lot more data that can be obtained. You can also see a historic time-line on Google Earth.

            Yet you have still not addressed what I was saying - probably because you don't understand it. Your responses show a huge amount of both hubris and stupidity.

            Once again, Google does not show the detail that a drone will produce, and what the drone owner is actually interested in - such as a leaky pipe, a hole in a fence, the faces of a b

  • The Chinese don't need to attack stuff, they just buy it.

  • but nobody seems to listen.

    China is DEFINITELY a threat to us all. They make up a majority of all known hacking attacks. Election influence? Google Chinagate where it was proven beyond a doubt they were trying to influence our elections in the 90's. They have recently stolen BILLIONS of dollars in weapons research, nuclear sub technology, and nuke information. And they have the largest standing army in the world.

    They are gearing up, and they are ABSOLUTELY enjoying the "OMG Russia!" distraction.

    • Blame the dirty foreigners? Seriously? People actually still fall for this one in this day and age? America is the warmongering government that the world needs to fear.
  • by manu0601 ( 2221348 ) on Friday December 01, 2017 @08:33PM (#55661927)

    Is "Moderate confidence" the synonym for "Someone told us it would be possible, but we have no evidence"?

    • by Luckyo ( 1726890 )

      Low confidence is "it's politically necessary to cast shit in this direction to see if some of it will stick". Moderate is "this is kind of, sort of possible if it was us with our capabilities and our organisational structures, not sure if others are quite at our level yet".

      "High confidence" is where you start thinking they may be on to something concrete rather than just assumptions. May be being the key words.

    • by dwpro ( 520418 )
      I'm assuming your joking, but it's worth noting that there is a definition:

      Moderate confidence generally means credibly sourced and plausible information, but not of sufficient quality or corroboration to warrant a higher level of confidence

      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/... [wikipedia.org]

  • The LA ICE office concludes that it, "assesses with high confidence the critical infrastructure and law enforcement entities using DJI systems are collecting sensitive intelligence that the Chinese government could use to conduct physical or cyber attacks against the United States and its population."

    Why are law enforcement entities using drones?

    • by Luckyo ( 1726890 )

      Have you seen operational costs of a helicopter?

      It's called "not squandering tax payer money when you can do same job for far less cost".

  • Wait till you have Chinese or Russian-made connected cars.
    With telemetry and update channels ending up at their respective makers.
    Those are effectively civilian surveillance bots.
    With remote software update (giving potential full remote control), they also can "break away" from their drivers's control and do whatever the central hub tells them to do.

    Then think of the reverse.
    US-made smart cars in Russia or China.
    Will Russia allow US-built, US-connected Teslas on their roads?
    Can you have an Israel-made car d

    • by AHuxley ( 892839 )
      Re "Then think of the reverse.
      US-made smart cars in Russia or China."

      The West had fun with that idea years ago. Filled hard to search areas on trusted container ships with powerful collection equipment.
      As the ships moved up rivers in deep into China, everything was collected on. The ships returned to the West and the data was studied.
      The fun that a self driving car mapping out every network it finds for better "navigation" will open real time data sets for spies.
      Every new car will spy.
  • Perhaps, the DJI pilots in the USA should register themselves as Foreign Agents? And this is it. The problem solved.
  • But noooOOOOOoooooooo. You HAD to buy into a Chinese company with a closed-source system that HAS to phone home every time you launch the app.

  • All major nations are spying on each other. Two big differences is that Russia and China are in a cold war with the west, and are EXTREMELY active in what they are doing. The other is that American leaders, Trump, O, and W, but esp Trump, have been STUPID WRT these nations and what they are doing to the west.
  • more like leaking info everywhere. This is the same DJI where a security researcher (who didn't accept DJI terrible condition for the $30,000 award) found their server with user ID and passport info. I'll say it's worst than spying.

"Paul Lynde to block..." -- a contestant on "Hollywood Squares"

Working...