Rogue Drones Cause Gatwick Airport to Close for Over 30 Hours: More on This Threat

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As the Internet of Things works its way into almost every facet of our daily lives, it becomes more important to safeguard the IoT devices we bring into our homes. One device that has become increasingly popular among consumers is the drone. These remote-controlled quadcopters have enhanced the work of photographers and given technology buffs a new hobby, but what happens when these flying robots cause a safety hazard for others? That’s exactly what happened at the Gatwick airport on Wednesday night and again today when two drones were spotted flying over the airfield, causing all departing flights to remain grounded and all arriving flights to be diverted to other airports.

The drones were spotted flying over the Gatwick airport’s perimeter fence into the area where the runway operates from. This disruption affected 10,000 passengers on Wednesday night, 110,000 passengers on Thursday, and 760 flights expected to arrive and depart on Thursday. More than 20 police units were recruited to find the drone’s operator so the device could be disabled. The airport closure resulted in 31.9 hours with no planes taking off or landing between Wednesday and Thursday.

You might be wondering, how could two drones cause an entire airport to shut down for so long? It turns out that drones can cause serious damage to an aircraft. Evidence suggests that drones could inflict more damage than a bird collision and that the lithium-ion batteries that power drones could become lodged in airframes, potentially starting a fire. And while the probability of a collision is small, a drone could still be drawn into an aircraft turbine, putting everyone on board at risk. This is why it’s illegal to fly a drone within one kilometer of an airport or airfield boundary. What’s more, endangering the safety of an aircraft is a criminal offense that could result in a five-year prison sentence.

Now, this is a lesson for all drone owners everywhere to be cognizant of where they fly their devices. But beyond the physical implications that are associated with these devices, there are digital ones too — given they’re internet-connected. In fact, to learn about how vulnerable these devices can be, you can give our latest episode of “Hackable?” a listen, which explores the physical and digital implications of compromised drones,

Therefore, if you get a drone for Christmas this year, remember to follow these cybersecurity tips to ensure you protect them on the digital front.

  • Do your research. There are multiple online communities that disclose bugs and potential vulnerabilities as well as new security patches for different types of drones. Make sure you stay informed to help you avoid potential hacks.
  • Update, update, update! Just as it’s important to update your apps and mobile devices, it’s also important to update the firmware and software for your drone. Always verify the latest updates with your drone manufacturer’s website to make sure it is legitimate.

And, of course, to stay on top of the latest consumer and mobile security threats, be sure to follow me and @McAfee_Home on Twitter, listen to our podcast Hackable? and ‘Like’ us on Facebook.

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