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DJI scrambles to fix drone ‘cyber vulnerability,’ adds offline data mode for security

Published Aug 15th, 2017 3:33PM EDT
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Chinese drone maker DJI is rolling out a new “local data mode” in an effort to bulk up the security of its hardware in the wake of a US Army memo that claims DJI’s products contain unspecified vulnerabilities. In the memo, officials from the US Navy and US Army Research Lab advised the discontinuation of DJI drone use by military personnel. 

“DJI Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) products are the most widlely used non-program of record commercial off-the-shelf UAS employed by the army,” the department’s memo explains. “Due to the increased awareness of cyber vulnerabilities associated with DJI products, it is directed that the US Army halt use of all DJI products.”

DJI’s response to the US Army’s warning has been one of shock, noting that the company is “surprised and disappointed” by the restrictions imposed on its drones, and noted that they “were not consulted” during the testing process or after the decision was made.

The new local data mode, which is still in development, is essentially an “offline” option for drone operators who are engaged in “sensitive operations around the world,” according to DJI, but the company’s messaging on it has been somewhat confusing.

As TechCrunch points out, DJI has stated that the new mode is not in direct response to the US Army’s ruling, while at the same time claiming that the dire memo created some anxiety among its other customers, prompting the company to reveal its plans earlier than it probably would have liked. Whatever the case, let’s hope the new feature is enough to put DJI back in the clear with regards to privacy and security.