Rise of the Drones

New Drones Can Steal Information Straight From Your Smartphone

They can swipe your credit card info, GPS data, usernames, passwords and more.
That? Oh, that's just a mosquito, now tell me more about your top secret project.

That? Oh, that’s just a mosquito, now tell me more about your top secret project.

Drones are incredibly versatile, able to do everything from delivering beer to, er, killing innocent people :(. And now, hackers have developed a new skill for the flying robots — and it’s definitely on the disconcerting end of the drone use spectrum.

Hackers have developed a drone that can steal information from smartphones, CNNMoney reports. It’s being tested in London, and research on the drones’ functionality will be presented at the Black Hat Asia cybersecurity conference in Singapore next week.

The drone’s technology is called Snoopy, which sounds innocuous and is anything but. It looks for mobile devices with WiFi functions turned on, then sends out a signal pretending to be a WiFi network the smartphone is familiar with. Snoopy can then intercept all of the phone’s messages.

Snoopy can access browser history, credit card information data, usernames and passwords, CNNMoney reports. In less than one hour of flying the drone, a CNNMoney reporter obtained network names and GPS coordinates for 150 mobile devices.

Shut off your WiFi connection, and the technology won’t be able to snoop your information.

The hacks, while “creepy,” could be helpful for law enforcement, CNNMoney reports. But we can’t help thinking of that too-true Orwellian saw: “Absolute power corrupts absolutely.” Granting this ability to a cop with anything less than Serpico-like levels of incorruptibility would be a pretty terrible idea.

Follow Molly Mulshine on Twitter or via RSS. mmulshine@observer.com