Hopefully you know the dangers of using public Wi-Fi at hotels, coffee shops and other places. A hacker on the same network can snoop on your Internet browsing if you aren't careful, or even slip a virus on to your computer if it's set up wrong. Learn how to stay safe on public Wi-Fi.
However, what if the hacker didn't even have to be in the same building? What if they would be miles away and high up in the air? That's the dream the Italian company The Hacking Team is pursuing.
If you haven't heard the name, The Hacking Company specializes in digital spying and sells the information it finds to governments around the world, including governments trying to silence dissidents and committing human-rights abuses.
Just recently, The Hacking Team was hacked and 400 gigabytes of its private information leaked online. That data includes not only the company's clients and history, there's also information on the security holes it uses to sneak viruses on people's computers (which is why Adobe updated Flash three times in the past few weeks), and its plans to expand its spying operation.
On the expansion front, The Hacking Team is in talks with American Insitu, a subsidiary of Boeing that that specializes in making spy drones for the government. The Hacking Team wants a drone capable of carrying a tactical network injector.
With a TNI, and a powerful Wi-Fi transmitter/receiver, the drone could tap into public Wi-Fi from a distance, or even try to hack private Wi-Fi. Once it's in, it can steal information, monitor Internet-based communications or even slip viruses on to gadgets connected to the network.
Instead of needing dozens of hackers roaming around to canvas a city's Wi-Fi hotspots, you'd just need a few drones. And no one at any hotspot would be the wiser. If that's a worry for us in America, you can imagine it would be a nightmare for political dissidents in a less free country.
The bad news is that Insitu sounds like it's on board with the idea. In one email, an Insitu engineer writes:
We see potential in integrating your Wi-Fi hacking capability into an airborne system and would be interested in starting a conversation with one of your engineers to go over, in more depth, the payload capabilities including the detailed size, weight, and power specs of your Galileo System. Additionally, if you have any more marketing material you are willing to share with us prior to meeting, please let us know.
The good news is that the drone is still in the planning stages; it will be a while before it comes online. And given that information about it is now out in the open, it might not happen at all, at least from these companies. We can only hope.