By Melissa Hersh and Michael Hopmeier:
It’s no surprise that the proliferation of commercial drones operating in United States has spawned interest in technologies to counter such drones when they pose a threat. What’s not well understood, however, is that taking cyber control of another aircraft—even to stop it from crashing or deliberately threatening people—isn’t permitted under U.S. law. Taking control of a remotely-piloted aircraft is tantamount to cyber hijacking. Tampering with the ground control station of a drone is unlawful even if that tampering is performed by law enforcement. Just as it’s illegal for law enforcement officials to listen into a phone conversation and then impersonate the voice on the call to alter the instructions being given to the receiving party. Getting a warrant for such an operation is highly unlikely even in extenuating circumstances where security is at stake, thus making routine use by law enforcement nearly implausible. Furthermore, if the call is encrypted, the technology used to impersonate the voice may prove futile.
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