Drones and business espionage – a new corporate threat

The idea that gadgets and what is perceived to be quirky technology can steal business information is overall something many of us regard as fantasy that comes from the movies. Drones and business espionage are now a very real threat.

The Camera

One would think that drones hovering at a window of a company during a board meeting would attract some attention. However, it is not inconceivable that a drone can attach itself to the side of any building. Motionless, it would thus become inconspicuous to those inside. Drones equipped with cameras are by far the most common risk to business. Many may think they pose no risk at all. A drone equpped with a camera is capable of capturing activity at business meetings. The risk  includes all the presentations, slides or whiteboard presentations. Imagine the security breach when a new prototype is in the process of a patent or prelaunch on the market. This presents a real drone buisness espionage problem.

Cameras can also detail the movement of business executives and the logistics of product movement. Large scale industrial environments make hiding a small size drone in a factory environment notably easy. Drones that operate in the airspace above a manufacturing or production plant also present a risk for stock theft or sabotage.

Computing power

The use of computing technology to breach a company’s private business information is no longer a mere possibility. It is rather a reality that some businesses have had to face urgently. Drones with computers as small as a Raspberry Pi attached have been used to breach secure data within a building. Businesses have discovered drones on the roof of their building months after the fact. Rusty incapacitated drones which have landed and rusted in situ have been found above on rooftops. The worrying thing is that the computers attached to them have often been discovered intact. Additionally they have still been sending out the data that they are stealing on a regular basis.

The idea that drones only present a low tech corporate espionage risk is long gone. Drones can become crippled in a relatively short space of time. The computing power that they carry however, will usually have its own power source. One may even be able to continue its job for months completely undetected. These modern drones equipped with the requisite computing power have Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and other network hacking capabilities. Drones and business espionage have become synonomous with cyber attacks.

Wi-Fi connections

One of the easiest ways for computer equipped drones to hack into any system is to duplicate the identity of a wi-fi connection. Providing an open wi-Fi connection with a cloned identity  will trick employees into thinking they are connecting to the company wi-fi. Once the employee has connected all sorts of risks come to the fore. Apart from creating opportunities for the hackers to gain access data, allowing remote access to the target systems, keyloggers can record the access details of anyone from the mailroom to the CEO. Once access has been gained to a corporate intranet, industrial spies can even control internal cctv cameras to spy on board meetings internally and any other business activity that may be considered private to the company concerned.

Firearms and weapons

It is also easy to confuse industrial espionage as a purely white-collar crime, that will take place in cyberspace. Drones can carry anything that their weight limitations will allow. It is not inconceivable that drones can be used to compromise a security fence or a locked gate using explosives. A drone that attaches itself to a gate that is only inspected on patrol, can provide access to an intruder quickly. Drones  can also be used to smuggle firearms into a business space. This especially where the firearms would be encountered at security checks at the entrance. Perpetrators can walk through security completely clean of any weapons and still access the weapons beyond a checkpoint. Any business that provides logistics for high value products faces very real risk.

Drones and business espionage – Prevention

While for many businesses drones and business espionage are concepts that are only read about in books, or seen in sci-fi movies for many others they have become a reality. Investment in drone detection and drone jamming has become a realistic part of their budget. Training security staff and empowering employees to pick up on the tell-tale signs of intrusion have been included in the induction process.

Considerable planning does need to go into preparing for this kind of intrusion as jamming Wi-Fi signals from a drone could cause problems with a company’s internal network. Drone detection and jamming the drone at point of entry is the most reliable option.

Being able to capture a drone within a secure area will also enable a business to identify who the most likely corporate intruders will be.