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US Interior Dept extends drone grounding over foreign hacking fears – Naked Security


Now can’t be an easy time to be a professional drone pilot working for the US Department of the Interior (DOI).

After years of enthusiastic expansion, in November 2019 the agency announced the temporary grounding of its fleet of Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) over hacking fears unnamed sources claimed were connected to their manufacture in China or use of Chinese parts.

This week, the DOI doubled down on that order, with Secretary of the Interior David Bernhardt signing a follow-up that will keep the agency’s drones on the ground for another 30 days until a more in-depth security review is completed.

It’s not clear what prompted the need for additional checks beyond a sense of caution. The statement simply noted:

In certain circumstances, information collected during UAS missions has the potential to be valuable to foreign entities, organizations, and governments.

Grounding drones for another month would give the agency time to carry out a cybersecurity assessment to make sure this can’t happen, it continued.

Until the issue is resolved, the only DOI drone flights allowed will be those connected to emergencies – monitoring wildfires and floods, both uses that underscore the importance of drones to the agency’s work.

Investigating drone cybersecurity sounds like a good idea even if how the agency might go about this remains open to speculation.

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