DJI Pilot app shares same security flaws as DJI Go 4, says Synacktiv

About ten days ago, this story was published in the NY Times highlighting the security flaws found in the for the Android platform by security researchers from the French company Synacktiv. Today, the company releases a new statement claiming that the for commercial and enterprise customers has the same security concerns

DJI Pilot app shares same security flaws as DJI Go 4, according to Synacktiv

Synacktiv, a French security research company that has also worked for DJI's competitors, released a statement claiming that the DJI Pilot app for commercial and enterprise customers shares many of the same security flaws as the DJI Go 4 app. The issues are related to the apps running on Google's Android platform, not Apple's iOS.

Synacktiv's initial report on the DJI Go 4 app was picked up by the NY Times and July 23, 2020. In a statement, the company says that

“We found similar issues to those listed in our previous blogpost in the application, such as a forced update mechanism.”

The DJI Pilot app is used to control the DJI Matrice, DJI Phantom 4, , and drones.

Dji Pilot App Shares Same Security Flaws As Dji Go 4, Says Synacktiv 1

Synacktiv's key findings on the DJI Pilot app

Here are the key findings from Synacktiv:

  • The professional DJI Pilot application is protected using the same packer as the consumer-grade DJI Go 4 application
  • The professional DJI Pilot application includes the same forced upgrade mechanism as the one present in its consumer-grade applications
  • The “offline” Local Data Mode requires an Internet connection in order to install unlocking certificates

Synacktiv points out that the forced upgrade mechanism is,

“very similar to command and control servers encountered with malwares. Given the wide permissions required by DJI Pilot (access contacts, microphone, camera, location, storage, change network connectivity, etc.), the DJI servers have almost full control over the user's phone.”

DJI's Local Data Mode does allow the drone to be disconnected from the internet while being operated, however, Synactiv points out that in order to unlock flying over certain sensitive areas, the user has to deactivate the Local Date Mode temporarily and thus allowing network communications for a limited time. The research firm also points out that the unlock certificate is linked to a specific aircraft and user account and thus may “allow specific targeting of sensitive users.”

DroneXL's take

We have reached out to DJI for a response on this latest report from Synacktiv and will let you know once we receive that. Furthermore, we do wonder who is behind this research? Are these research projects done by Synacktiv or does another party pay for Synacktiv to look into these DJI apps? We will ask them.

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Haye Kesteloo
Haye Kesteloo

Haye Kesteloo is the Editor in Chief and Founder of DroneXL.co, where he covers all drone-related news, DJI rumors and writes drone reviews, and EVXL.co, for all news related to electric vehicles. He is also a co-host of the PiXL Drone Show on YouTube and other podcast platforms. Haye can be reached at haye @ dronexl.co or @hayekesteloo.

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