US warns that drones made in China pose spying risk
The US Department of Homeland Security is concerned that Chinese-made drones and the data they can collect could get into the hands of the Chinese government, according to a DHS alert obtained by CNN.
The alert, which CNN reported was sent out on May 20, 2019, said Chinese-made drones have the ability to share information and data to a server that isn't exclusively controlled by the drone manufacturer.
It's unlikely that live video feeds from Chinese-made drones could be shared with the Chinese government, and audio feeds aren't usually available as many drones don't come with microphones. With that said, some drone software saves snippets of video and images that could be saved on a drone company's servers. Information such as flight and operations data, too, could reveal where, when, who, and why a drone is being used.
As part of a 2017 national-intelligence law, China expects its citizens and companies to support its national-intelligence activities. The alert reportedly suggests that Chinese drone companies could share — or be forced to share — data collected from their drones abroad, including to people in the US.
While the alert didn't single out any specific manufacturers, the Chinese drone manufacturer DJI holds a significant majority of the drone market share in North America — up to 80%, according to an industry analysis from CNN.
In 2017, the US Army issued a ban of DJI drones after alleging that the company shared critical infrastructure and law-enforcement data with the Chinese government.
DJI said in a statement to Business Insider that it has total control over how the data stored in its servers is handled and that its technology has been independently verified by the US government and US businesses. The company also said customers can enable options that would protect their data, as per the DHS's reported recommendations. As for corporate or governmental use of DJI drones, the company said it offers models that don't transfer data to DJI directly or over the internet at all.
DJI's full statement is below:
At DJI, safety is at the core of everything we do, and the security of our technology has been independently verified by the U.S. government and leading U.S. businesses. DJI is leading the industry on this topic and our technology platform has enabled businesses and government agencies to establish best practices for managing their drone data. We give all customers full and complete control over how their data is collected, stored, and transmitted. 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 U.S. government agencies trust DJI drones to help save lives, promote worker safety, and support vital operations, and we take that responsibility very seriously. We are committed to continuously working with our customers and industry and government stakeholders to ensure our technology adheres to all of their requirements.
The DHS alert comes a week after an executive order from President Donald Trump effectively banned the sale of Huawei telecoms equipment in the US.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.