The US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) sent out an alert on 20 May warning that Chinese-made drones can relay sensitive flight data back to their manufacturers in China.
The alert, obtained by US cable news channel CNN, from DHS’s Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency reportedly says that some drones may pose a risk to firms’ data privacy and information by sharing it on servers that could potentially be accessed by the Chinese government.
The products “contain components that can compromise your data and share your information on a server accessed beyond the company itself,” the alert said, warning pilots to take caution when buying Chinese drones, and to learn how to limit a drone’s access to networks and remove secure digital cards.
According to the alert, “the United States government has strong concerns about any technology product 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.”
“Those concerns apply with equal force to certain Chinese-made (unmanned aircraft systems) – connected devices capable of collecting and transferring potentially revealing data about their operations and the individuals and entities operating them, as China imposes unusually stringent obligations on its citizens to support national intelligence activities,” the alert added.
“Organizations that conduct operations impacting national security or the Nation’s critical functions must remain especially vigilant as they may be at greater risk of espionage and theft of proprietary information,” the alert concluded.
The agency did not name any specific drone manufacturers but approximately 80 percent of all drones used in the US and Canada are produced by Shenzhen-based DJI, according to one industry analysis cited by CNN. In response to the alert, DJI expressed support for the recommendations and said it provides its customers with “full and complete control over how their data is collected, stored, and transmitted”.
In a statement to CNN, DJI said that it gives customers “full and complete control over how their data is collected, stored, and transmitted,” adding that “customers can enable all the precautions DHS recommends.”
“At DJI, safety is at the core of everything we do, and the security of our technology has been independently verified by the US government and leading US businesses,” DJI added. “For government and critical infrastructure customers that require additional assurances, we provide drones that do not transfer data to DJI or via the internet, and our customers can enable all the precautions DHS recommends.
“Every day, American businesses, first responders, and US government agencies trust DJI drones to help save lives, promote worker safety, and support vital operations, and we take that responsibility very seriously,” DJI said.
The alert followed an executive order issued by the White House that effectively banned US firms from using telecommunications equipment produced by Chinese technology giant Huawei, which has recently drawn similar national security concerns of government spying.