The drug cartels aren’t just buying golden Uzis anymore. As the U.S. Customs and Border Protection agency, or CBP, has upped its drone patrols along America’s Mexican border, narcotics traffickers have responded with expensive technology of their own.
“The bad guys on the border have lots of money and what they are putting money into is into spoofing and jamming GPS systems. We’re funding some advances so we can counter this,” said Timothy Bennett, a science-and-technology program manager at the Department of Homeland Security, which oversees CBP.
Those bad guys aren’t ISIS, just traffickers, Bennett said on Dec. 16 at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.
“It’s more about trafficking drugs and people,” he told Defense One. “We know who’s over there. We can guess who’s doing it.”
Bennett said CBP has a rapid and growing need, especially for “small” unmanned aerial vehicles, or UAVs. But unlike larger drones designed to military specifications, many small UAVs are far more vulnerable to hacking and location spoofing. Consider how easily Chinese cybersecurity researchers Lin Huang and Qing Yang with Qihoo 360 were able to disrupt the geofence on a DJI Phantom drone by spoofing GPS, which is illegal in the United States.
“The manufactures know it’s an issue. They’re not going to advertise it as an issue. It becomes cost-prohibitive. They’re not going to, all of a sudden, put it in their aircraft because it does drive the price up,” said Michael Buscher, CEO of Vanguard Defense Industries.
Vanguard makes a drone called the ShadowHawk, a popular purchase among local police forces near the border. Buscher couldn’t say how many CPB units or border law enforcement agencies…