Understanding the Drone Threat

Understanding the Drone Threat

For security professionals, the scope of the threat is huge and evolving.

Last summer, fans at a San Diego Padres baseball game caught a glimpse of the future when a drone crashed into the stands. Thankfully, the operator was a hobbyist who had lost control of his drone and nobody was hurt. But the incident highlighted the drone threat, both in terms of a potential physical attack as well the capability to gather video surveillance and livestream it online, where malicious actors can exploit that footage in a number of ways.

In a recent report, Goldman Sachs estimated that the total drone market could reach $100 billion by 2020. And while we tend to think of drones as tools for the military, commercial aviation and hobbyists, the reality is that drones play significant roles in every sector of the economy, from agriculture to entertainment and everything in between. For security professionals, the scope of the threat is huge and evolving.

Any space that is accessible via drone requires a counter-drone protection plan to detect and mitigate potential airborne threats. These spaces can include sporting stadiums, critical infrastructure, airports, production facilities, prisons and executive offices, to name just a few. As a general rule, if you can see the sky, you need to assume that a drone can see you and assess the potential threat accordingly.

A drone security plan should include at least three components: radar detection, physical defense and open-source monitoring. Radar detection and physical defense systems, such as radio jammers and drone cannons that capture drones by launching a net projectile, provide a great solution to mitigate imminent threats. This is critical because as 2015 incident illustrates, a tech-savvy teenager figured out how to mount a handgun to a drone and fire it remotely. Had that weaponized drone been directed at a commercial, residential or industrial target, it surely could have caused significant casualties.

But radar and physical defenses don’t address the online threat. By monitoring for drone-related chatter on the internet, both on the indexed and dark web, security professionals can deploy proactive and reactive solutions to protect physical locations as well as intangibles, such as trade secrets or brands.

To get an idea of just how pervasive the online drone threat is, try searching for “drone footage” on YouTube. Each day, hobbyists upload countless videos. In most cases, those hobbyists are simply having fun, but what they don’t realize is that they’re also creating a treasure trove of intelligence for malicious actors.

Aerial footage of an industrial facility could easily be a goldmine for corporate espionage. Footage of an outdoor shopping space might look cool to most viewers, but to a would-be mass-shooter, that same footage becomes an invaluable tool for planning their attack. And while brands work hard to present a pleasing street-view of their brick-and-mortar locations, the aerial view might not comport with the message the brand wants to put forward, making drone footage a real, but often overlooked, threat to brand safety.

Consider the Padres example again. As it turned out, the hobbyist was making videos of the San Diego area. But a livestream could’ve been used any number of ways. On the mundane end of the spectrum, the opposing team could’ve used that footage to their advantage. On the serious end of the spectrum, a terrorist could have used the footage to direct an attack. And somewhere in the middle of the threat spectrum, that footage could’ve compromised the team’s brand. The simple fact is, drones aren’t going away. And while security professionals can readily see the need for local physical defenses, open-source monitoring is an essential tool for discovering and understanding the range of threats posed by drones.

Featured

  • Maximizing Your Security Budget This Year

    7 Ways You Can Secure a High-Traffic Commercial Security Gate  

    Your commercial security gate is one of your most powerful tools to keep thieves off your property. Without a security gate, your commercial perimeter security plan is all for nothing. Read Now

  • Busy South Africa Building Integrates Custom Access Control System

    Nicol Corner, based in Bedfordview, Johannesburg, South Africa, is home to a six-star fitness club, prime office space, and an award-winning rooftop restaurant. This is the first building in South Africa to have its glass façade fully incorporate fritted glazing, saving 35% on energy consumption. Nicol Corner (Pty) LTD has developed a landmark with sophisticated design and unique architecture by collaborating with industry-leading partners and specifying world-class equipment throughout the project. This includes installing a high-spec, bespoke security and access control system. Read Now

  • Only 13 Percent of Research Institutions Are Prepared for AI

    A new survey commissioned by SHI International and Dell Technologies underscores the transformative potential of artificial intelligence (AI) while exposing significant gaps in preparedness at many research institutions. Read Now

  • Survey: 70 Percent of Organizations Have Established Dedicated SaaS Security Teams

    Seventy percent of organizations have prioritized investment in SaaS security, establishing dedicated SaaS security teams, despite economic uncertainty and workforce reductions. This was a key finding in the fourth Annual SaaS Security Survey Report: 2025 CISO Plans and Priorities released today by the Cloud Security Alliance (CSA), the world’s leading organization dedicated to defining standards, certifications, and best practices to help ensure a secure cloud computing environment. Read Now

Featured Cybersecurity

Webinars

New Products

  • EasyGate SPT and SPD

    EasyGate SPT SPD

    Security solutions do not have to be ordinary, let alone unattractive. Having renewed their best-selling speed gates, Cominfo has once again demonstrated their Art of Security philosophy in practice — and confirmed their position as an industry-leading manufacturers of premium speed gates and turnstiles. 3

  • ResponderLink

    ResponderLink

    Shooter Detection Systems (SDS), an Alarm.com company and a global leader in gunshot detection solutions, has introduced ResponderLink, a groundbreaking new 911 notification service for gunshot events. ResponderLink completes the circle from detection to 911 notification to first responder awareness, giving law enforcement enhanced situational intelligence they urgently need to save lives. Integrating SDS’s proven gunshot detection system with Noonlight’s SendPolice platform, ResponderLink is the first solution to automatically deliver real-time gunshot detection data to 911 call centers and first responders. When shots are detected, the 911 dispatching center, also known as the Public Safety Answering Point or PSAP, is contacted based on the gunfire location, enabling faster initiation of life-saving emergency protocols. 3

  • QCS7230 System-on-Chip (SoC)

    QCS7230 System-on-Chip (SoC)

    The latest Qualcomm® Vision Intelligence Platform offers next-generation smart camera IoT solutions to improve safety and security across enterprises, cities and spaces. The Vision Intelligence Platform was expanded in March 2022 with the introduction of the QCS7230 System-on-Chip (SoC), which delivers superior artificial intelligence (AI) inferencing at the edge. 3