Municipal drones are coming — and cloud leaders are getting prepared

Like it or hate it, government drones are coming to your block.

The Cloud Security Alliance (CSA), a leading organization dedicated to ensuring a secure cloud computing environment is working with Securing Smart Cities, a nonprofit global initiative focused on smart city cybersecurity, to set up drone guidelines.

Their report, co-authored by the CSA Internet of Things (IoT) Working Group, provides guidance for the safe and secure creation and operation of municipal drone programs. To borrow from President Trump, it’s going to be Yuge.

Why is the Cloud Security Alliance involved? While you can control and monitor a DJI Phantom 4 Quadcopter from a handset, you’re going to need more resources if you’re running hundreds or thousands of them. You need the resources of the cloud.

But before drone management ends up in the cloud, other problems need to be addressed. The main drone system challenges are:

  • The need for drone manufacturers to improve security by integrating methodical security practices into their development and manufacturing efforts.
  • The need to identify and address the multiple points of integration within a city-wide drone system that can be used as attack vectors, including cloud-based software service.
  • The need to establish stabilized and standardized regulations to recognize possible measures to deal with rogue drones, evidence collection options, no fly zones, etc.
  • The use of new, as yet unproven, algorithms to support automated operations and cooperation between drones.
  • The need to address the fact that drones will eventually be authorized for widespread Beyond Line of Sight (BLOS) operations. Security engineers must plan now to protect against future threats of integrating drone systems into national airspace.

According to the report,”Vendors consider security as an added cost and prefer to offer more features over protection. It is the responsibility of vendors to establish a safe and secure environment for drones’ operational quality and stability, if urbanized environments are to adopt them and benefit from their potential. It is also important for governments to implement regulations to enforce safe security standards and disallow the implementation of weak cyber-security measures in live environments.”

“Whether you are a fan of them or not, it is becoming increasingly evident that drones will in fact play an important and even critical role in the smart city environment,” said Brian Russell, co-author of the report and chair of CSA’s IoT Working Group, in a statement.

Mohamad Amin Hasbini, Securing Smart Cities board member, added, “Drones in the sky, drones in the sea, drones on land. But are we ready? The mass adoption of drones by cities implies that thousands of programmable connected mobile devices will not only operate in the streets, but also above and below them. From a security perspective, this guarantees potential disasters, should one of several drone systems or the software used to control them become compromised or manipulated. We’re trying to raise these issues early to the public, which is why we’ve prepared these guidelines.”

The guidelines are really more commonsense suggestions at this point. For example, the group calls for keeping citizens and municipal employees safe from harm caused by drones and keeping citizens’ information private and safeguarded from disclosure.

Still, it’s a start. And, with the FAA receiving 25 reports a month of drones flying too close to manned aircraft, it’s only a matter of time until drones become even more of a security concern.


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  1. Thanks for sharing really nice article

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