A DHS-funded report examining information security risks associated with drones found no evidence of data leakage, or the ability for data to be covertly retrieved, from two DJI models that are part of the fleet recently grounded by the Department of the Interior (DoI).
The report and accompanying risk assessment, prepared for DHS by the Idaho National Laboratory, follow a department-wide warning about cybersecurity risks associated with Chinese-made drones. The two DJI drones examined — the Matrice 600 Pro and Mavic Pro — were equipped with a set of cybersecurity upgrades called Government Edition. Two other non-DJI models, provided by DoI, were also tested.
However, the report characterizes the cybersecurity tests conducted on the drones as a “limited-scope analysis” and states “that doesn’t not mean [data leakage] cannot happen with the right conditions and circumstances,” according to the document obtained by Defense Daily.
Longstanding concerns over data security and the U.S. industrial base — unable to compete with Chinese drone-maker DJI, the global market leader — have led to increased examination of the use of DJI drones within the federal government. Last month, the House Homeland Security Committee unanimously passed legislation that would prevent DHS from buying Chinese drones.
This report “demonstrates what DJI has said all along: our customers have complete control over the data they collect and whether to share it with any other party,” Michael Oldenburg, a representative for DJI told Defense Daily. “This report also cuts through some fevered speculation about drone technology by noting that DJI has succeeded in a fair competition with other companies; that almost every available drone has some level of Chinese technology inside it, no matter where its manufacturer is based; and that the U.S. government should either develop smart non-country-based standards for drone data security, or simply give up using drones.”
The Senate companion bill, introduced by Sen. Rick Scott (R-Fla.), isn’t yet on the committee calendar for a vote, according to committee staff.
The DHS-funded report suggests pursuing follow-on testing of the drone models provided by DoI, but the department did not respond to inquiries as to whether it plans to conduct a deeper analysis.
This story has been updated to include a comment from DJI.