The Promise (and Pitfalls) of Drones

UPDATE January 28, 2015:

Interesting development after my original post below. TechCrunch is reporting that the maker of the drone that crashed into the White House lawn has developed and is providing a firmware update for its drone that will inhibit the craft from flying in certain places.

“The firmware update (via TheNextWeb) essentially just puts geographic restrictions in place that act as “no-fly zones,” adding a virtual barrier extending 25 kilometers from downtown D.C. in all directions and effectively blocking either take-off or even flying entry by a drone. National borders are included, too, to try to prevent DJI drones from being used for the kind of drug smuggling operation described above.

There are also 10,000 new airports added to the Phantom firmware’s no-fly list, which should prevent the consumer gadgets from getting in the way of air traffic and generally causing problems.”

Screen Shot 2015-01-28 at 9.49.34 PM


ORIGINAL POST January 27, 2015:

Drones. It seems they’re everywhere these days.

To say that drone use has proliferated over the last year or so would be an understatement, but it’s important to know how drones are being used, what value they bring, and what dangers they present as the technology advances at an ever increasing and rapid pace.

drone meth mexico
A drone carrying close to 6 pounds of meth crashed in a parking lot near the California – Mexico border.


Consider the potential of drones and the value add, first. In a recent article entitled, “Why Drones Are the Future of the Internet of Things,” Colin Snow, CEO and Founder of Drone Analyst, talked of the commercial use and applications for drones. “[I]n countries like England, Australia, and France, you will find them operating in energy, mining, mapping, and surveying companies – and quite a few government agencies like those responsible for transportation and infrastructure.”

“Drones are already beginning to efficiently replace [] connected sensors at rest with one device that is:

  1. deployable to different locations
  2. capable of carrying flexible payloads
  3. re-programmable in mission
  4. able to measure just about anything, anywhere”

drone IoT

Add to this the well-publicized (currently exploratory) use by Amazon of drone delivery and we can see clearly a horizon where drones populate the sky with increasing regularity in support of businesses and enterprises in a variety of verticals.

There are, of course, serious concerns about such ubiquitous drone use. Two events we learned about just this week serve to amplify those concerns:

  • A drug carrying drone crashed in a Mexican parking lot near the California border on January 20; and
  • Yesterday, January 26, a small drone  (too small to be detected by radar) crashed into a tree on the South Lawn of the White House.
drones NYT
A drone, which was about two feet in diameter and weighed about two pounds, crashed into the White House lawn.


In the latter of the two instances, the drone ‘pilot’ was apparently drunk and not intent on malfeasance; the former event, of course, represents a much more dangerous development in the form of a new delivery vehicle for illegal drug runners intent on selling their wares in the United States.

In short, it would certainly seem that drones do have their uses, some for entertainment, some for business and some, of course, for our military. At the same time, however, drones have clearly now become a security issue, and whether it be through regulation or technology advances or perhaps a combination of both, efforts will have to be made to protect both privacy and person in a future of sky-filled drones.

Well Publicized Hacks Driving Cybersecurity ‘Tipping Point’

It’s here. Finally. Maybe.

We may have finally arrived at that time in U.S history when “cybersecurity” has moved from an obscure tech term to a mainstream concern of everyday Americans. This important ‘tipping point’ comes courtesy of more than two years of well publicized cybersecurity intrusions, including but not limited to the Home Depot and Target attacks, as well as the Sony hack this past November.

Just yesterday, twelve short days into 2015, the media reported on not one, not two, but three cybersecurity ‘hacks’ on everything from the United States military, to airlines to the nice folks that make our children’s’ crayons:

  • Cenctom (the United States Central Command)  a command of the Department of Defense that has been the main American presence in Iraq and Afghanistan (source: Wikipedia) saw it’s Twitter and YouTube accounts hacked apparently by Islamic State sympathizers. Source: Washington Post
Centcom Twitter
CENTCOM resumes Twitter activity after hack



Crayola Facebook
Crayola apologized for hack of Facebook site


In response to these attacks and the media coverage surrounding them, politicians, congressional leaders and federal regulators are all now calling for legislative action. President Obama is pushing theThe Personal Data Notification & Protection Act to establish national, uniform requirements surrounding when and how companies should report cyberintrusions.  The law would, “give a company 30 days to let you know if your personal information — such as your address or Social Security number — has been exposed by hackers or careless employees.” Source: CNN Money.

obama to push legislation

Separately, H.R. 234 was introduced in the House of Representatives by Congressman Ruppersberger, a Democrat from Maryland, pushing forward, “another go at the Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act (CISPA), which passed the House in 2012, but got knocked down in the Senate.” Source: CNN Money

It is impossible to know if the Republican controlled House and Senate and President Obama will be able to work together to draft, negotiate and pass legislation to help keep Americans safer from cyberthreats. What is not so difficult to know or see is that this issue has reached a critical mass affecting everyday folks and that, without some additional action and effort to combat the threat, the results of these hacks and those to come will continue to grow and impact millions of Americans, their personal information and their privacy.