China unleashing realistic dove drones to spy on problem regions

29 Jun 2018

A flying (real) dove. Image: one_clear_vision/Shutterstock

This week in IoT, spying drone ‘doves’ in China are now a thing, and the US military looks at putting sensors in space to detect missiles.

Perhaps the biggest thing this week from an internet of things (IoT) perspective was a major overhaul of one of the fundamental security protocols for Wi-Fi: WPA 3.

The first update since 2004, the Wi-Fi Alliance’s new protocol creates a mechanism that prevents hackers from getting their hands on your password by sheer guesswork or through brute force attacks.

Not only that but, even if they’ve uncovered the password, they will have limited access because they are not you. This is possible through what is known as Simultaneous Authentication of Equals.

We also heard from the start-up Wia, started by Northern Irishman Conall Laverty. Wia is currently developing a set of tools for developers to enable any device to be connected to IoT, with a consumer offering also in the works.

China unleashing pigeon drones for surveillance

Is it a bird? Is it a plane? Well, actually, it is a drone designed to look like a dove.

According to the South China Morning Post, 30 military and government agencies have deployed these bird drones in five of China’s provinces in the past year as part of a programme code-named ‘Dove’.

Reportedly, the state particularly wants to keep an eye on the Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region on the far-flung western borders of the country, where relations between the government and the ethnic Uygur people remain tense.

Developed by a former senior scientist on China’s J-20 stealth aircraft programme, Song Bifeng, the bird drone’s existence was confirmed by Yang Wenqing, a colleague of Song.

“We believe the technology has good potential for large-scale use in the future … it has some unique advantages to meet the demand for drones in the military and civilian sectors,” said Yang.

Installed on the bird is a battery, flight control system and, of course, a camera to watch what is going on below in a country where surveillance of its citizens is increasing substantially.

US military wants sensors in space to track missiles

US president Donald Trump may be eager to create a ‘space force’, but the US military is more focused on the development and testing of sensors in space to fill blind spots in the country’s anti-missile defence system.

According to Space News, the Pentagon is eager to get sensors in orbit as soon as possible, with news that Russia is developing hypersonic ballistic glider weapons undetectable once they surpass their initial boost phase of flight.

Given that the US military does not have a strong track record in launching things into space, it admitted that it could be a decade before a proven network of satellite sensors is in operation.

“To go fast sometimes you need to go slow early on,” said Lt Gen Samuel Greaves, director of the Missile Defense Agency.

“This is the slow part, doing the requirements, the architecture studies, the modelling and simulation, so by the time you make your decision, industry is ready to ramp up.”

Domestic abusers using smart home devices to their advantage

A seriously disturbing report was published by The New York Times detailing how domestic abusers are using smart home devices to their advantage.

A series of interviews conducted with survivors showed how the abusers would use security cameras, doorbells and smart speakers to harass, stalk and control their targets.

As the abuser is typically the person who installs the devices, they are better at knowing how best to exploit their functions to control the victim.

When the victim tries to uninstall any of these devices knowing their use, the abuser typically reacts angrily, thereby escalating the conflict.

Even more worrying is the fact that there are few laws – not just in the US – that see smart devices falling under existing abuse legislation.

“If you tell the wrong person your husband knows your every move, and he knows what you’ve said in your bedroom, you can start to look crazy,” said Ruth Patrick who runs Women SV, a domestic violence programme in Silicon Valley.

“It’s so much easier to believe someone’s crazy than to believe all these things are happening.”

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Updated, Friday 29 June at 3.05pm: This article has been updated to clarify that Wia was started by a Northern Irishman but is no longer based in Northern Ireland.

Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic