Wired reported today that the age of drone vandalism has come. Early Wednesday morning, the graffiti artist/vandal known as KATSU used a hacked Phantom drone to deface a 6 story tall Calvin Klein billboard on Houston Street in New York City and posted the tagging of the billboard on You Tube. Given what he did was completely illegal, it is not clear if You Tube is going to take it down (for the moment, the video is below).
What KATSU figured out how to do is (a) hack a drone, (b) attach a spray can to the drone, (c) control the spray can remotely and (d) tag the face of Kendall Jenner on the billboard, 7 stories up, in a very busy intersection in lower Manhattan, all the while videoing the episode. Then he posted it on You Tube and got Wired to write about it. As an exercise in how to get PR for yourself, that rates an A.
Whether the NYPD will arrest him is another matter because it is not clear that they have any evidence, admissible in court, against him. In the video, you don’t see his picture, you don’t see anyone controlling the drone and the video is obviously edited.
I am sure that Calvin Klein is not happy. I do not know if they have already redone the billboard as I doubt there is any way to clean the graffiti off, even if you were hanging off the roof of the building 7 stories up.
The entire episode took about a minute.
From the security perspective, at this point in time, it is not surprising that he was able to hack the drone. Why he hacked the drone is not clear (maybe deniability – it wasn’t his drone?), but what is of concern is that, as the FAA starts to license drones to businesses, will Amazon’s drones, for example, deliver packages as well as tag billboards. If you cannot keep control of the drones, you cannot assure people that this won’t happen.
And, given that someone was able to land a gyrocopter on the front lawn of the Capitol last week, could you program a hacked drone to deliver some sort of payload into say, the Super Bowl. The possibilities are endless and I am sure that the various authorities are losing sleep over it. The Secret Service was flying drones over the White House at 2 AM in an effort to figure out countermeasures. If the drone is hacked to disable things like remote recall and ignore GPS signals, it would be likely hard to take control of it by the authorities, if you even had enough time to round up the troops to do it. If the drone contains, for example, an altitude controlled detonator and you shoot it down, have you in fact done the terrorist’s job for them? Unfortunately, there are no simple answers.