A leaked US Department of Homeland Security memo has suggested that the Chinese government is tapping into drone technology to spy on the US and other countries.
In particular, drone manufacturer DJI has been named amid claims that it could be “providing US critical infrastructure and law enforcement data to the Chinese government”, according to the New York Times.
US government officials are highly concerned about the situation, the New York Times adds, with the memo detailing the supposed motivations of China. The memo suggests that China is using DJI technology to target government and privately owned organisations.
With the aim of rattling the US government and its approach to data protection, China is thought to be developing strategies to “collect” and “exploit” sensitive data in the country.
China is using the drones to obtain “proprietary and sensitive critical infrastructure data”. They, according to the memo, can collect “detailed imagery of power control panels, security measures for critical infrastructure sites, or materials used in bridge construction”.
Using this data, countries like China can cause detrimental damage to the US. The memo reads “with high confidence a foreign government with access to this information could easily coordinate physical or cyber attacks against critical sites”.
As pointed out in an analysis piece by security firm Bitdefender, data from the drones could potentially be used by the Chinese government in a number of different contexts.
“The Chinese government is likely using information acquired from DJI systems as a way to target assets they are planning to purchase,” says the memo.
“For instance, a large family-owned wine producer in California purchased DJI drones to survey its vineyards and monitor grape production. Soon afterwards, Chinese companies began purchasing vineyards in the same area.
“According to the [source of information], it appeared the companies were able to use DJI data to their own benefit and profit.”
The contents of the memo appear to be somewhat damaging to DJI, but it claims that the claims are “deeply flawed”.
It added: “For example, DJI does not access its customers’ flight logs, photos or videos unless customers actively upload and share them with us.
“Further, DJI’s new Local Data Mode stops all internet traffic to and from the DJI Pilot flight control app to provide enhanced data privacy assurance for customers flying sensitive missions.”