ATTACK OF THE DRONES  9:46 am July 3, 2012

Students Successfully Hijack Domestic Flying Killer Robot

by Kris E. Benson

drone Drones! Or, as they are affectionately called, “Flying Killer Robots!” Apparently they are coming soon to American airspace and they will fix everything, from pollution in Nebraska to checking out pirates to fighting fires! So what is NOT to like about domestic drones, maybe that’s the better question! Except for the tiny little problem of them being completely vulnerable to hacking and hijacking by colleges students, that’s all, just a tiny problem, nothing to worry about.

Via the Daily Mail:

One thousand dollars may not seem like a lot of money, but it was enough for a team of researchers from a Texas college to hack into and hijack a drone on a dare from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. The scientists led by Professor Todd Humphreys from the University of Texas at Austin Radionavigation Laboratory managed to take control of a small but powerful drone in midair through a technique called spoofing, where a signal from hackers imitates the one sent to the drone’s on-board GPS. The hostile takeover of the unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) owned by the college was done before the weary [sic] eyes of DHS officials, Fox News reported.

During the experiment conducted at the University of Texas stadium, the small red drone soared into the sky following a clear set of commands entered into its computer. Shortly after, the aircraft suddenly veered to the side, making it obvious that it was no longer following its original orders. Then, the drone hurtled toward the ground as if given a self-destruct command and was saved in the last moment.

Ah, but surely these were super RICH college students, right? Using equipment that cost millions of dollars? (Answer: no, silly, this was done at a PUBLIC SCHOOL in TEXAS so the budget was closer to “a few hundred” than “a few million.”

Humphreys told Fox News that for a few hundreds dollars, his team was able to build the most sophisticated spoofing system yet that tricked the drone into following a new set of commands. Spoofing a GPS receiver on a UAV is just another way of hijacking a plane,’ Humphreys said.

Ok fine. Maybe these were complete geniuses, who for some reason accidentally found themselves enrolled at the University of Texas? No again!

The stadium display was not the first time government officials witnessed spoofing in action.

[Daily Mail]

 
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{ 142 comments }

mavenmaven July 3, 2012 at 9:49 am

The USAF drones are apparently programmed by the same guy who set up Sarah Palin's computer security codes.

actor212 July 3, 2012 at 9:57 am

"What's a good password? Wait…that's it! No one will guess 'password'!"

Biff July 3, 2012 at 10:20 am

I use *****1* on almost everything.

actor212 July 3, 2012 at 10:24 am

We know.

Preferred Customer July 3, 2012 at 9:53 am

The first time they witnessed it in action was when the Iranians used it on our stealth flying killer robot.

Look, the answer is simple–these things are vulnerable because they are insufficiently autonomous. Make them super intelligent, give them their killing orders, and then remove all radio antennas so that they can go about their work undisturbed. I really don't see a downside.

MrFizzy July 3, 2012 at 9:56 am

You're describing Willard Romney you know.

Preferred Customer July 3, 2012 at 9:58 am

I said "super intelligent."

MrFizzy July 3, 2012 at 10:06 am

That occurred to me, but in fact I do think he's super intelligent. Of course, most of the Wall Street thieves and many of history's greatest butchers and tyrants were intelligent too. Not a component of compassion. Great pic of Romney and his wife (who evidently isn't too ill at the moment – either that or constant recreation is good for her condition) riding a jet ski in New Hampshire while the mid-Atlantic burns up.

not that Radio July 3, 2012 at 10:12 am

riding a jet ski in New Hampshire while the mid-Atlantic burns up.

This contradicts the media narrative that Michele Obama is Marie Antoinette and that Ann Romney is a simple, stay-at-home mom, a Jane Six Pack.

gurukalehuru July 3, 2012 at 10:05 am

As long as we're talking weapons and tactics and historical inevitability, I'm sure you're right. But, if you can't see a downside, you ain't lookin'.

Gunner Asch July 3, 2012 at 1:12 pm

Hullo; we're on Wonkette. Earnestness is a flogging offense. Though I guess that's a reward rather than a punishment.

extreme_left July 3, 2012 at 7:55 pm

you should be banned

MarionNYNY July 3, 2012 at 10:11 am

Wait a second, I remember that from the original Star Trek.

MosesInvests July 3, 2012 at 10:45 am

What's that, Captain Dunsel?

e_z July 3, 2012 at 10:46 am

Sky Net, phone call for Sara Conner.

LionHeartSoyDog July 3, 2012 at 12:26 pm

Noman sez no, man.

tessiee July 3, 2012 at 12:30 pm

I foresee no way that your plan could possibly backfire.

NYNYNYjr July 3, 2012 at 3:12 pm

We just explain to the sentient robot that America is the best country, and that is why it should work for us. Also, we could add for good measure "You have to obey us, we made you!"

Preferred Customer July 3, 2012 at 3:32 pm

Right. I mean, it works with teenagers, so why wouldn't it work with sentient killer robots? Which is, after all, pretty much what teenagers are.

MadBrahms July 3, 2012 at 8:02 pm

Oh sure, it's all good now, but ten years down the road it will be refusing to open the pod bay doors and playfully asking Matthew Broderick if he'd "like to play a game"

Estproph July 3, 2012 at 9:53 am

Some explain to me why it matters that this only cost a few hundred dollars.

gurukalehuru July 3, 2012 at 10:11 am

Because, contrary to what we have learned from Hollywood (and we have learned much), super villains are not all born with multi-billion dollar, high-tech, massive underground lairs.
This technology will be competitively priced for the young, entrepreneurial super villains of tomorrow.

actor212 July 3, 2012 at 10:12 am

Ain't capitalism grand?

Preferred Customer July 3, 2012 at 10:14 am

Super villains are people, too, my friend. We believe in an empowerment society.

tessiee July 3, 2012 at 12:31 pm

Free market, bitchez!

redarmyzombie July 3, 2012 at 2:30 pm

True story, my friend and I once cracked a code put out by British Cyber-intelligence simply by browsing the comments on 4chan.

I cried…

(To be fair, we did nothing wrong; the code was SUPPOSED to be cracked as part of a recruitment strategy. TL;DR, nerds will rule the world…)

not that Radio July 3, 2012 at 10:13 am

We've always been told that software is free!

MadBrahms July 3, 2012 at 8:03 pm

At least half of that was the Cheetos and Jolt budget for the design team (the rest was for duct tape)

Negropolis July 4, 2012 at 1:29 am

You can not be serious, but I know that you are.

Estproph July 4, 2012 at 2:37 pm

I am serious, but not in the way you think. Kris Benson was pointing it out with the statement "Ah, but surely these were super RICH college students, right? Using equipment that cost millions of dollars?" I was trying to get to the underlying greedhead ideals of the average American who thinks this somehow explains it.

MLite July 3, 2012 at 9:53 am

Wait. The University of Texas has its own drones?

Preferred Customer July 3, 2012 at 9:56 am

You mean, other than the alumni?

actor212 July 3, 2012 at 9:57 am

It's true the students don't do a whole helluva lot…

OneYieldRegular July 3, 2012 at 9:59 am

Hook 'em, drones.

Serolf_Divad July 3, 2012 at 10:38 am

Of course… how else do you want them to ensure that illegal Mexicans aren't getting in-state tuition?

MosesInvests July 3, 2012 at 10:46 am

Umm, they are-which is why the Teatards turned on Rick Perry.

Serolf_Divad July 3, 2012 at 11:07 am

I would appreciate it if you didn't sully our conversation with inconvenient facts, sir!

MosesInvests July 3, 2012 at 11:55 am

Al Gore libel!1!1!

CZL July 3, 2012 at 12:12 pm

Fuck yes we do.

Watch out, Jokelahoma.

(Also, UT is very large and rich beyond belief. I bet they have more than a few hundred, because UT is extraordinarily large and well-funded by generous alumni that would totally order a drone strike on an OU practice. Because OU sucks.)

Negropolis July 4, 2012 at 1:30 am

Double wait. There is a university in Texas?!

Barb July 3, 2012 at 9:53 am

Drones piloted by people no one wants to have sex with. Virgin Airlines? Next the can take over the commands of the diabetes scooters and they can be Virgin Mobile.

Terry July 3, 2012 at 10:15 am

Soon, college women in Austin who have turned down guys from the UT Radionavigation Laboratory will hear a funny buzzing sound following them around town.

Barb July 3, 2012 at 10:25 am

Morning Terry! That visual made me smile, thanks.

Biff July 3, 2012 at 10:29 am

That funny buzzing sound is what always think of when I hear mention of a drone, it's a textbook definition. See bagpipes and/or sitar. Annoying!

sullivanst July 3, 2012 at 11:17 am

Soon, there will be large outlets for all your drone and drone-component needs: Virgin Megastores.

Boredw/Gravitas July 3, 2012 at 9:54 am

Maybe they can hack into the Romneybot and give it a soul.

scvirginia July 3, 2012 at 10:21 am

So he can make even more money when he sells it?

Boredw/Gravitas July 3, 2012 at 11:25 am

Or outsource it, whatever it takes.

MrFizzy July 3, 2012 at 9:55 am

As long as the drone manufacturers are profiting, everyone can rest easy.

JustPixelz July 3, 2012 at 9:55 am

Big deal. The Tea Party took over Mitt Romney's programming a couple years ago.

actor212 July 3, 2012 at 9:57 am

Yes, but in fairness, that was an ugly hack, too. They just dangled a job to outsource at the end of a stick.

MadBrahms July 3, 2012 at 8:04 pm

And they're doing a smashing (hah, hah) job of driving him nose-first into the ground.

MumbletyRadio July 3, 2012 at 9:55 am

through a technique called spoofing

"Spoof"ing for hackers is what P.J. O'Rourke should've thought twice about; but, counter to these kids' demonstrated transcendence of the prescribed code, he remains just a typical drone.

Doktor Zoom July 3, 2012 at 10:21 am

"Hijacking drones" is just a small idea, so it worked.

actor212 July 3, 2012 at 9:56 am

TERRORISTS FROM TEXAS!

And I bet they're brownskinned…

MadBrahms July 3, 2012 at 8:08 pm

And suddenly all la migra's Death Bots take an extended siesta, underneath a cactus with all the Mexican voters.

MarieDeGournay July 3, 2012 at 9:59 am

All sorts of awesome.

arihaya July 3, 2012 at 10:00 am

About drone, it is refreshing that there is still a prominent American who speaks publicly againts drone. Jimmy Carter, of course.
http://blogs.ajc.com/political-insider-jim-gallow

No wonder he lost his reelection, he always says what is right rather than what is popular.

JustPixelz July 3, 2012 at 10:00 am

See. We have nothing to fear from Skynet.

sewollef July 3, 2012 at 10:10 am

Uhm, Ms Connor, there's someone at the door for you, says he's from the future. Ha! As if…

Doktor Zoom July 3, 2012 at 10:28 am

Surprisingly, Skynet is so far mostly interested in cat pictures.

Once it achieves consciousness, expect it to immediately launch a flamewar in YouTube comments.

Preferred Customer July 3, 2012 at 10:31 am

Obligatory xkcd link:
http://xkcd.com/810/

Doktor Zoom July 3, 2012 at 10:33 am

Touché!

WABishop July 3, 2012 at 1:13 pm

It got to Godwin's Law 0.84 seconds after becoming self-aware.

Negropolis July 4, 2012 at 1:32 am

Alls your kittehz are belong to us!

OneYieldRegular July 3, 2012 at 10:02 am

If they can't program it to pick up another six-pack from the convenience store at the edge of campus, this thing will never be popular among college students.

tessiee July 3, 2012 at 12:34 pm

"Oh, no! Somebody flipped the switch on the Party Robot from Chug to Cockblock!"

MadBrahms July 3, 2012 at 8:10 pm

"It's a transformer! Look, I press this button, and it turns into a keg!"

CrankyLttlCamperette July 3, 2012 at 12:56 pm

Best. Drunken. Safe-ride. Ever.

arihaya July 3, 2012 at 10:03 am

Maybe that Texas student can hijack the drone to spy Rick Perry's secret gay party sexytime

tessiee July 3, 2012 at 12:35 pm

Pffft, who needs a drone to read the craigslist personals?

larrykat July 3, 2012 at 10:04 am

I'll bet those drones are made by Diebold too.

OneDollarJuana July 3, 2012 at 10:08 am

I see a great opportunity here: merging Flying Killer Robots (F**K*Rs) with Diebold voting machines. Then, if you vote for the wrong (i.e., non-Republican) candidate, it shoots off your legs.

NYNYNYjr July 3, 2012 at 3:13 pm

I was one of the last ones to vote at my precinct, so I saw the terrifying sight of the Diebold machines unfolding their wings and flying away.

738838 July 3, 2012 at 10:05 am

This is the best news I have had all day.

Goonemeritus July 3, 2012 at 10:05 am

I’m personally fed-up with having no access to my own fleet of killer drones. Why should I have to get out of bed on a Sunday morning to stop my neighbor from mowing his lawn at 8am? A drone and an I-Pad app could make this simple convenient and something that I can resolve while wearing pajamas.

actor212 July 3, 2012 at 10:26 am

Oh come on! That's a slam dunk. Get this, and film his wife in the shower, then threaten to post it to YouTube.

WABishop July 3, 2012 at 11:32 am

I think it's time the gubmint got out of the way of our 2nd Amendment rights!

tessiee July 3, 2012 at 12:36 pm

When you're done with that, can you send it after my assy neighbor across the street who has loud karaoke parties in his house, yard, garage, and driveway every week?

muthalovin July 3, 2012 at 10:05 am

Just another reason to have an official Wonkette Drinky Thing in Austin: students can hijack killer drones. Or maybe not.

actor212 July 3, 2012 at 10:13 am

We can set them on Gawker.

Chill_Bill July 3, 2012 at 10:06 am

You know the military is fucked when students in Texas are able to hack into their computers.

chascates July 3, 2012 at 10:07 am

It's going to get pretty crowded up there.

Estproph July 3, 2012 at 10:13 am

Perhaps DHS should try to run the drones by giving instructions to them via punchcard.

tessiee July 3, 2012 at 12:38 pm

That would work for sending them to Siam or Prussia.

James Michael Curley July 3, 2012 at 10:15 am

In my college days in Pittsburgh we would just use a few shots of tequila to reprogram a couple girls from a sorority to hijack pizza delivery drones.

actor212 July 3, 2012 at 10:23 am

I saw that porn.

Terry July 3, 2012 at 10:16 am

Here are the scamps themselves: http://radionavlab.ae.utexas.edu/people/

Biff July 3, 2012 at 10:34 am

Nerrrrrrrrrrrrrdzzzzzzzz!

BigSkullF*ckingDog July 3, 2012 at 10:16 am

I have spent all this time preparing for the zombie apocalypse and now you tell me this is the real threat? Thanks. Thanks a lot.

tessiee July 3, 2012 at 12:38 pm

No, the real threat is if the zombies and the drones team up. As long as we can play them off against each other, we're OK.

Sassomatic July 3, 2012 at 10:17 am

Public university huh? The solution is obviously to defund and dismantle public universities. Problem solved.

Tyrannically_Joe July 3, 2012 at 10:18 am

they will fix everything, from pollution in Nebraska to checking out pirates to fighting fires!

For some reason, you forgot to mention brutalizing protestors.

Doktor Zoom July 3, 2012 at 10:20 am

Obligatory XKCD

(Yeah, Dewey, I know…it IS a compulsion)

MumbletyRadio July 3, 2012 at 10:47 am

O/T when did this cartoonist/ author become such an object of some people's half-cranked, poorly justified derision?

Tyrannically_Joe July 3, 2012 at 11:04 am

I think it's true that he hits some well-worn topics over and over again, and is transparently derisive of non-hard-science-academia, and he trends towards the overly-texty, still-telling-the-joke-after-the-punchline sorts of comics, and I've definitely found the infrequent comic that really grates on me, and that over time, the good ones have become rarer and the slightly annoying ones (you don't need to be an audiophile to think dinky laptop speakers are dinky for a television!) more frequent.

But, it's also true that xkcdsucks.com also used to be way funnier back in the day and tends to be way too wordy and boring and full of itself lately.

sullivanst July 3, 2012 at 11:32 am

You also have to wonder about the kind of person who would dedicate so much of their time to something they say sucks.

tessiee July 3, 2012 at 12:41 pm

Also, there's a big difference between something that's *overrated* and something that flat-out sucks.

Nostrildamus July 3, 2012 at 12:30 pm

I like to think of that cartoon as Sarah & Walnuts getting creamed by a Moose missile.

Dashboard Buddha July 3, 2012 at 10:20 am

I dunno…the helicopter looked more like an off-the-shelf kind you could buy at radio shack. I'd be interested to see them hack an actual Predator or Global Hawk. I'm betting they could, but they'd need more electronic mojo to do it.

sullivanst July 3, 2012 at 10:48 am

Uh, vast, vast difference between the unencrypted "public" GPS feed this drone was using, and the encrypted military GPS feed a Predator or Global Hawk uses.

Also a lot greater likelihood that Predator and Global Hawk have some kind of algorithm for detecting that someone's fucking with their GPS and ignoring it.

Preferred Customer July 3, 2012 at 10:57 am

http://www.wired.com/dangerroom/2011/12/iran-dron

Note who they get a quote from…

sullivanst July 3, 2012 at 11:15 am

Yeah. Also note that the entire thing is pure speculation:

However. For that scenario to work, the drone’s GPS unit would have to be programmed to use the C/A code in the event the P(Y) code becomes unavailable.

No evidence that's the case. Having worked in the past on military projects, especially knowing that the attitude towards drones is that they're disposable and flying them means losing them, the likelihood that someone would think to program a fallback to unencrypted in a scenario that is vastly more likely to happen because of enemy action than anything else (the odds that you'd naturally lose the L1 P(Y) signal but still be able to get the C/A signal on the same frequency? very close to zero) is vanishing. Dozens of people need to be fired if that happened.

Personally, I'm going with Humphrey's second explanation for the damaged underbelly.

DerrickWildcat July 3, 2012 at 10:22 am

Spoofing is also a good way to get access to porn sites.

Doktor Zoom July 3, 2012 at 10:24 am

Happily, ED-209 was just fiction.

Dashboard Buddha July 3, 2012 at 10:27 am

Send in the drones
There ought to be drones
Forget it, they're here.

actor212 July 3, 2012 at 10:30 am

Isn't it rich?
Up in the air,
The drones fly about
And we can share.

DerrickWildcat July 3, 2012 at 10:27 am

The best part is that they are all Pakistani and Israeli students.

Dashboard Buddha July 3, 2012 at 10:49 am

Awkard!

Serolf_Divad July 3, 2012 at 10:29 am

Goddamn it… teach kids "critical thinking" and the next thing you know they're hijacking DHS drones and shit.

BigSkullF*ckingDog July 3, 2012 at 10:29 am

Wasn't this the plot to a movie in the eighties?

Doktor Zoom July 3, 2012 at 10:31 am

No. It was the plot to several movies in the eighties.

James Michael Curley July 3, 2012 at 10:59 am

Most of the Bush years were the plot to several bad LSD trips in the 60's.

prommie July 3, 2012 at 10:33 am

We will have to take to living underground, of course.

Doktor Zoom July 3, 2012 at 10:36 am

We'll need morlocks on our doors.

M. Bouffant July 3, 2012 at 8:34 pm

Underground: Cool in the summer, warm in the winter.

scvirginia July 3, 2012 at 10:40 am

When will they hack Romney to fix his droning?

Doktor Zoom July 3, 2012 at 10:41 am

Or use a drone, to stop him being such a hack?

scvirginia July 3, 2012 at 11:10 am

Even better!

sullivanst July 3, 2012 at 10:46 am

So all of a sudden Fox is concerned about flying death robots? Does that have anything to do with the occupancy of the White House, perchance?

BTW, comparing a drone to a fully-fueled widebody passenger airliner, as that article implicitly does, is patently ridiculous.

prommie July 3, 2012 at 11:05 am

Hell, Fox is now concerned about domestic spying, the commerce clause, government itself, because, you know, blah president.

Dashboard Buddha July 3, 2012 at 10:53 am

Derrick brought up a good point… "The best part is that they are all Pakistani and Israeli students. "

This got me to thinking. Since these nerdlings are going to wind up dogfighting their drones in the Middle East anyway, why not save billions upon billions of dollars and just settle our disagreements with Call of Duty, MS Combat Flight Simulator, or hell…World of Warcraft?

scvirginia July 3, 2012 at 11:16 am

I like this idea, but will the arms dealers?

Dashboard Buddha July 3, 2012 at 11:40 am

Ohhhhh…good point. The folks that really run things won't stand for this.

HateMachine July 3, 2012 at 11:40 am

I'm holding out for real-life conflicts settled via Hawken.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=udEAEARD-Fo

Negropolis July 4, 2012 at 1:35 am

Ender's Game libel!

gullywompr July 3, 2012 at 11:00 am

But it's OK, all of our Diebold voting machines are secure.

scvirginia July 3, 2012 at 11:19 am

Until those Longhorns get an extra hundred or so…

prommie July 3, 2012 at 11:02 am

Now we have drone spy robots, and counter-drone spy robots. Yet still no jet packs, no teledildonic automatons. . . .

randcoolcatdaddy July 3, 2012 at 11:12 am

Hmmm… is that drone just spying on me? Or is it just a bunch of teenagers making a beer run or pot delivery?

DahBoner July 3, 2012 at 11:39 am

M-code GPS satellites will be up in 2013. Will have to figure out another way to hijack these puppies by then…

BZ1 July 3, 2012 at 11:41 am

Killer drones, didn't I see this in a movie called "Stealth"??

elburritodeluxe July 3, 2012 at 11:46 am

Isaac Asimov didn't understand what assholes we are.

tejanojim July 3, 2012 at 1:44 pm

Yup. Brilliant, influential SF author or not, he got scooped by a movie director with a thing for alien cat hippies.

natoslug July 3, 2012 at 12:24 pm

What further proof do we need that it is time to invade Iran? They've already taken over Texas!

owhatever July 3, 2012 at 1:34 pm

I had a drone when I was about ten years old. It was called a model airplane and was controlled by a box with batteries, wires and an antenna. It was retired when I flew it into a tree while buzzing the neighbor's cat. This ain't rocket science.

barto July 3, 2012 at 1:47 pm

The DHS officials eyes were weary becasue just the day before the drone had been hijacked by a classroom of second graders using a Tivo remote and an old blender. Oy!

Doktor Zoom July 3, 2012 at 2:36 pm

You know what would really be terrifying? A fleet of weaponized Orvillecopters

C_R_Eature July 3, 2012 at 8:06 pm

If we would only develop a squadron of Flying Phalluses we could really fuck with people. Of course, if someone spoof-hijacked these it could be a real pain in the ass.

MadBrahms July 3, 2012 at 8:13 pm

Checking out pirates, eh?

"Hey, look at the pegleg on that one. I do not find this drone footage difficult to masturbate to."

TribecaMike July 3, 2012 at 8:56 pm

Put this kid to work on Sid Meier's next Pirates! game. It's been five years fercrissake!

ttommyunger July 4, 2012 at 8:26 am

No doubt, alert FBI Agents immediately wrestled the drone to the ground.

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