DHS warns police that Chinese DJI drones are ‘at risk’ of data breach

Surveillance drones made by Chinese drone maker DJI are at risk of having their data intercepted, warns the Department of Homeland Security to U.S. police departments.

Chinese DJI drones are ‘at risk’ of data breach, DHS warns police

This week in a letter to House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler (D-NY), the department’s Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) expressed its concern.

Earlier this year the drone maker provided 100 DJI Mavic 2  Enterprise drones to 40 law enforcement agencies and first responders around the country as part of their US Disaster Relief Program to help fight spreading coronavirus.

According to an article in the NY Post, CISA Director Christopher Krebs informed Nadler that:

“Any information collected by DJI drones should be considered at risk and protected from inadvertent disclosure.”

In addition, he said that departments are discouraged from using any donated unmanned aircraft from DJI for non-COVID-19 law enforcement operations that involve collecting of sensitive information.

Based on information published by the NYPD in December 2018, we can see that the department used at least 14 DJI drones at the time.

CISA, Krebs wrote, has teamed up with the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA):

“to require state and local governments to review and acknowledge CISA guidance before purchasing foreign-manufactured UAS with Federal grant funding.”

Krebs added that:

“Those wishing to continue with the purchase of a foreign manufactured UAS must provide a written justification that is screened against criteria that include an assessment of the UAS manufacturer’s country of origin. Based on this screening, FEMA may recommend alternatives to recipient jurisdictions on a case-by-case basis.”

This is the latest development in the ever-increasing political pressure on Chinese drone maker DJI. Last month we reported that Republican Representatives Jim Jordan of Ohio and Matt Gaetz of Florida warned that DJI drones may send information back to China.

DJI responds to data security concerns

The NY Post had reached out to DJI and spokesman Adam Lisberg responded with the following message:

“While some people have tried to use DJI as a political football to score points against China, there is absolutely no evidence that any of their worst fears have any basis in reality. Multiple US government agencies, including the Department of Homeland Security itself, have reviewed the data protections in DJI drones and found no evidence that the photos, videos or flight logs generated by those drones can be transferred to anyone unless the drone operator deliberately chooses to do so.”

It seems like this story is far from over. We will keep you up to date here on DroneXL whenever new developments happen.

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About the author

Haye Kesteloo

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