The Department of Homeland Security and the FBI have warned that drones manufactured in China “pose a significant risk to critical infrastructure and U.S. national security.”


The Department of Homeland Security’s cyber agency and the FBI have warned that Chinese-made drones “pose a significant risk to critical infrastructure and U.S. national security” and could steal U.S. data, according to a public service announcement issued Wednesday.

The Department of Homeland Security’s Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) and the FBI say that because of a Chinese law that allows the government to access data held by private companies, American data tied to drones could be at risk.

“The use of UAS systems manufactured in China requires careful consideration and potential mitigation to reduce risks to sensitive networks and information,” the document reads.

China is the country’s “most advanced, active, and persistent cyber threat,” according to the White House, and one reason why is its ability to exploit data used by American consumers.

“Central to this strategy is the acquisition and collection of data – which the People’s Republic of China views as a strategic resource and a growing arena for geopolitical competition,” the statement said. “The use of China-manufactured UAS systems in critical infrastructure operations threatens to expose sensitive information to PRC authorities, putting U.S. national security, economic security, and public health and safety at risk.”

The 2021 law expands China’s reach “and control over companies and data within China and imposes severe penalties on companies based in China for non-compliance,” the agencies said.

“The data these companies collect is essential to the People’s Republic of China’s military-civilian integration strategy, which seeks to gain a strategic advantage over the United States by facilitating access to advanced technologies and expertise,” the statement said.

More and more critical infrastructure companies are relying on drones or as the government defines them, unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) because they are more cost-effective.

“Our country’s critical infrastructure sectors, such as energy, chemicals, and telecommunications, increasingly rely on drones for various tasks that ultimately reduce operating costs and improve employee safety. However, the use of Chinese-manufactured drones risks exposing sensitive information.” It threatens American citizens. “Security, economic security, and public health and safety,” said CISA Assistant Executive Director for Infrastructure Security, Dr. David Mussington.

According to the press release, the Chinese drones are “capable of receiving and transmitting data.”

Some of the ways the Chinese can exploit drones are to transmit and collect data, through software updates, and using docking stations as data collectors. For example, connecting the docking station to a shared port on the network may give the device access to other data including “sensitive images, scanning data, and facility layouts.”

The agencies warned that the consequences of data collection could “lead to severe consequences for the security and resilience of critical infrastructure.”

This includes exposing intellectual property of Chinese companies, providing details of critical infrastructure operations, compromising cybersecurity and physical security controls, and exposing network details to facilitate Chinese hackers’ entry into the system.

CISA and the FBI urge companies and individuals to isolate Chinese-made drones from their network and obtain regular maintenance to maintain adequate security measures.

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