back to article US government grounds drone fleet (no, not the military ones with Hellfire missiles) over Chinese espionage fears

The US government has indefinitely grounded its fleet of roughly 800 drones over ill-defined fears of Chinese espionage. On Wednesday, Secretary of the Interior David Berhardt signed a “Temporary Cessation of Non-Emergency Unmanned Aircraft Systems Fleet Operations” order [PDF] that will pull his department’s fleet of drones …

  1. Kevin McMurtrie Silver badge

    Easy easy espionage

    The drones will never be found to contain anything as obvious as a backdoor. All they need is one or two good bugs that makes them vulnerable. While the Chinese drones likely have bugs that the Chinese government can exploit, it would be foolish to think that other drones are somehow perfect and immune. Foreign attackers might even be relying on bugs in American chipsets and operating systems.

    1. Version 1.0 Silver badge

      Re: Easy easy espionage

      The manufacturer says, "That's not a backdoor, that's a bug" but every countries No Such Agency says, "We can exploit that bug, let's give it a name like EternalBlue"

      1. Craig 2

        Re: Easy easy espionage

        Not sure why Kevin got the downvotes, you're both saying the same thing... I would imagine no "obvious" backdoor would ever be engineered into a device, but an intentional bug could be left in along the lines of: Buffer overflow here gets remote execution there... Then they can legitimately claim bug if it's discovered.

        The whole "lets give exploits cool nicknames" thing is another matter, I'm not sure if techno / sci-fi thriller films are copying reality or vice versa.

        1. Venerable and Fragrant Wind of Change
          Holmes

          Re: Easy easy espionage

          Not sure why Kevin got the downvotes,

          It's a regular phenomenon here.

          Structure a comment to start with something provocative and only later resolve it, and you'll get downvotes from people who don't read beyond the first sentence or so. Even when it's just a short comment like Kevin's.

          1. NoneSuch Silver badge
            Joke

            Re: Easy easy espionage

            Let's nuke the drone sites from orbit.

            It's the only way to be sure.

  2. hplasm Silver badge
    Facepalm

    Return of the Yellow Peril!

    The Red Menace is over- all good comrades now - the best!

    Back to the 1930s!

    /covfefe

    1. vtcodger Silver badge

      Re: Return of the Yellow Peril!

      And really now. What great secrets would the Chinese gather from a hijacked Department of Interior drone and/or the data therefrom? It's no secret that the US, Russia and China all have sophisticated intelligence satellites that are far better suited than a drone to collecting photographic and RF spectrum information for sites of interest worldwide. And presumably the DOI would notice if their drones start making spontaneous, unplanned, trips to Area 51 or whatever?

      1. ThatOne Silver badge
        Devil

        Re: Return of the Yellow Peril!

        > What great secrets would the Chinese gather

        There is no secret, big or small, you could gather by spying on a wildfire-tracking or SAR drone (for instance): Those procedures are already public and well-documented, and international exercises makes sure everybody knows how the others like to work, the very point being to exchange any good ideas and improvements every country might have invented: It's about saving lives, not about profit.

        No, it just happens that the "Weapons of Mass Delusion" excuse has already been used, so the government had to find something else to push Chinese gear out of the door, so that Boeing could become the designated purveyor of drones for all government or state organizations, or anybody wanting to work with the federals, or anybody who feels like protecting his country... The sound you hear is a multi-rotor pork barrel.

  3. Will Godfrey Silver badge
    Black Helicopters

    Total Panic

    That seems to be the state of the US these days, and should be a real worry for the rest of the world.

    Anyone in such a state is completely unpredicatable and highly dangerous.

    1. Hans Neeson-Bumpsadese Silver badge

      Re: Total Panic

      It's starting to remind me of the sort of mindset they had during the McCarthy era, only now the perceived bad guy is China.

      "Are you now, or have you ever been, the owner of any Chinese-made technology products?"

      1. Venerable and Fragrant Wind of Change

        Re: Total Panic

        Or Canadian steel?

  4. Pascal Monett Silver badge

    "he hoped American manufacturers would replace foreign drone suppliers over time"

    Sure they will, they'll have the components made in Taiwan in a jiffy !

    Seriously though, this is a golden snouts-in-the-trough call for a company to create the required installations in the US, jack up the price tenfold and get the lucrative government contract because Made in America.

    Oh, in order to maximize the margins they will, of course, hire cheap Chinese labor, but the management will be lily white all the way, so it'll be all good.

    1. Chris G Silver badge

      Re: "he hoped American manufacturers would replace foreign drone suppliers over time"

      The " Made in America" label only requires that assembly takes place in the US, the parts can come from anywhere.

      Plus as mentioned above, made in America won't preclude the possibility of vulnerabilitues that can be exploited by bad actors so, this is an economic ploy or they don't know what they are talking about.

      1. Hans Neeson-Bumpsadese Silver badge

        Re: "he hoped American manufacturers would replace foreign drone suppliers over time"

        The " Made in America" label only requires that assembly takes place in the US, the parts can come from anywhere.

        So true. I had something which was marketed as a "Made In USA" product, and had a marking on the outside of the case to attest to this. One time I had reason to open the case up (replace a backup battery or something) and the "Made In China" branding on the inside was significantly larger than the "Made In USA" mark on the outside.

  5. big_D Silver badge

    No explanation...

    No clear explanation for the decision has been given apart from “concerns which include cybersecurity, technological considerations,

    the fact that the UK and the EU hadn't listened to them about Huawei, so they need to find another avenue of influencing US/China (trade) relations.

  6. Pat Att

    The risk is high

    I ate a Chinese curry last night, and now I've been banned from entry into my government job. They say I need to do a sh!t before I am allowed back in.

    1. Commswonk Silver badge

      Re: The risk is high

      I ate a Chinese curry last night, and now I've been banned from entry into my government job. They say I need to do a sh!t before I am allowed back in.

      That suggests a concern about some sort of chemical weapon attack via a backdoor (ahem, cough) rather than anything else.

      In other news our dog has weapons - grade flatulence; not the sort of thing you would want drifting around any place of employment. And that's without a Chinese curry.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: The risk is high

      I ate a Chinese curry last night, and now I've been banned from entry into my government job. They say I need to do a sh!t before I am allowed back in.

      I don't envy whoever has to review your log dump for security purposes

    3. JDPower

      Re: The risk is high

      Needs way more up votes lmao

  7. cantankerous swineherd Silver badge

    spread a rumour about ability to track drones, achieve denial of service attack. cunning these Chinese.

    alternatively trumplestiltskin is trying to frighten the rubes into thinking only he can save them.

  8. Zangetsu

    you know, it is not hard to SEE what code is in the drones.

    why not take a look if you are concerned ?

  9. Kned

    And now their website went down! Let's hope it isn't a hacking attack from China in retaliation!

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