Digital mischief goes aerial as researchers configure a U.S. military drone plane to act as a hacking platform to breach firewalls erected by corporates and countries alike.
Researchers Mike Tassey and Richard Perkins took a surplus U.S. Army drone and converted it into a remote controlled drone which can siphon information from porous Wi-Fi networks, action Denial-of-Service (DOS) attacks and intercept mobile phone calls.
The sophisticated machinery was developed at a meager cost of $6,000 and was displayed at the Black Hat security conference.
The researchers who are security consultants to Wall Street firms call the custom built drone a WASP - an abbreviation for Wireless Aerial Surveillance Platform.
Wired.com reported that the drone can mimic a commercial cellphone base station in order to cheat mobile phones into routing outbound calls through the drone. It can also capture encrypted calls by "disabling encryption and records call details and content before they're routed to their intended receiver through voice-over-internet protocol or redirected to anywhere else the hacker wants to send them."
The hacker drone uses an IMSI (International Mobile Subscriber Identity) catcher and antenna to masquerade as a cellphone base station for eavesdropping.
The drone also assists in formulating a brute force attack to hack password protected information as it comes equipped with a dictionary of 340 million words.
The FMQ-117B U.S. army drone weighs 14 pounds and measures 6 feet long. As per the FAA regulations, the drone can only fly at a height of 400 feet which researchers claim is enough to keep the drone incognito.
The researchers highlighted the ease of converting a drone into a hacking platform which they believed could be easily re-engineered by malicious hackers. Also the fact that all this sophistication costs a mere $6,000 could be a big draw for terrorists and criminals.
Hacker groups LulzSec and Anonymous have gained limelight for auctioning some high-profile digital infiltration. LulzSec breached Sony PlayStation Network, CIA, FBI-affiliate Infragard Atlanta and Fox Broadcasting Network. Anonymous gained prominence by carrying DDoS attacks against PayPal, Visa and MasterCard in retaliation for barring WikiLeaks from transacting.
Hacking drone adds another avenue to a growing list of hacking tools to breach secure corporate and state data. The researchers qualified their research with the statement: "You don't need a PhD from MIT to do this."