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Amazon's nightmare: Software hijacks drones mid-air

One hacker knows a good way to ruin Amazon's suggested drone-based delivery system - take control of the drones while they're still flying.

By Open Source Community on Tue, 12/03/13 - 1:47pm.

Although Amazon's proposed drone-based product delivery service is still apparently years away, one hacker has already developed a sort of next-generation pirate ship that could hijack and redirect Amazon's delivery bots mid-air.

On his website, Sammy Kamkar explained SkyJack, a witty name for a software he developed that allows a remote operator to take control over a drone while it's still flying.

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The software, which Kamkar calls "Zombie drone" throughout a YouTube video explaining it, runs on a Parrot AR.Drone 2 and scans for other drones' wireless signals while flying. When it detects nearby drones, the software disconnects the target drone from its wireless connection to its operator, then takes the operator's place. The target drone is then subjected to the same control as the one that detected it, and can be controlled by the operator.

Those who would like to engage in all the fun but don't want to buy a drone themselves are in luck - the software doesn't need a drone to work. That means anyone with a Linux computer or Raspberry Pi can take over drones within the reach of the software.

If Amazon's drone delivery system ever does get off the ground, SkyJack is a sign that theft may be a serious issue for the company. Of course, Amazon is keeping an eye on these issues, but hackers always do have a way of staying out in front of technology companies.

SkyJack joins the ranks of a handful of skeptics who doubt Amazon's drone plan will materialize as quickly as Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos said it would in his much-publicized 60 Minutes interview this weekend. Aside from concerns over safety and public acceptance of a constant stream of unmanned drones in populated areas, one article at Wired questioned whether such a system would even benefit Amazon financially.