US Department of Homeland Security Warns of Data Threat from Chinese Drones

Tensions between the world's two largest economic super powers continues to rise as the US Department of Homeland Security issued a notice surrounding Chinese-manufactured drones.

More specifically, the DHS' notice titled "Chinese Manufactured Unmanned Aircraft Systems," called into question the integrity of a product that could potentially infect systems with malware, or siphon data from flights around the world and send them back to the country of their manufacturer.

U.S. officials hold, according to the strongly-worded notice "strong concerns about any technology that takes American data into the territory of an authoritarian state that permits its intelligence services to have unfettered access to that data or otherwise abuses that access."

The Department's Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) has released a statement through an official spokeswoman, outlining that it had "recently released an industry alert providing organizations with information related to the inherit risks associated with using UAS -unmanned aircraft systems - technology manufactured in China and measures to reduce such risk."

CISA also stressed the fact that Chinese-manufactured drones "can contain components that can compromise your data and share your information on a server access beyond the company itself."

In addition to this, CISA raised more concerns that "an organization is susceptible to data theft if the drone is transmitting unencrypted data or, more broadly, that a drone could increase the risk of a network being breached."

The department urged companies to "be aware of whether your UAS data is being stored by the vendor or other third parties. If it is being stored, find out how, where, and for how long."

SZ DJI Technology Co Ltd, the world's largest manufacturer of consumer drones released a statement earlier this week responding to the DHS' notice, assuring consumers and stockholders that "the security of our technology has been independently verified by the U.S. government and leading U.S. businesses." In addition to this, DJI says "customers can enable all the precautions DHS recommends."

According to figures from Skylogic Research's 2018 Market sector report, around 79% of drones operating in the US and Canada - 74% globally - are manufactured by DJI.

DJI assures that they have given "customer[s] full and complete control over how their data is collected, stored and transmitted," adding that specifically for government and critical infrastructure customers that are using their drone technology, "we provide drones that do not transfer data to DJI or via the internet."

"Every day, American businesses, first responders, and U.S. government agencies trust DJI drones to help save lives, promote worker safety, and support vital operations, and we take that responsibility very seriously," the company said.

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