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Intel: Ukrainian cyberattack cripples Russian drone control system

Russian troops lost manual override for DJI drones after Ukrainian cyberattacks crashed key servers linked to custom friend-or-foe recognition software.
Russian soldier with a drone.
Russian soldier with a drone. Credit: RIA Novosti
Intel: Ukrainian cyberattack cripples Russian drone control system

Russian forces encountered widespread failures in drone control software following a successful cyber operation by the Ukrainian intelligence service, Ukraine’s Main Intelligence Directorate (GUR) announced on 8 February.

“Cyber specialists of the Chief Intelligence Directorate of the Ministry of Defense of Ukraine carried out another successful operation against the Russian occupiers – as of 8 February 2024, the enemy complains about massive drone control software failures,” GUR wrote on the Telegram channel.

Russian forces use the software to reflash DJI brand drones for combat operations. The program enables drone operators to configure and create new control panels, capture video and transmit footage to command centers, and control drones from a computer instead of a remote control, among other capabilities.

Through web servers, the Russian drone reflashing project provides friend-or-foe identification functionality. Per preliminary data, Ukraine’s military intelligence cyberattack took the servers offline, causing all software to register as “foe” and denying Russian access.

Without server access and thus no access to the system, drone control via remotes is likely impossible, Ukraine’s intel said. The Russian troops are now desperately trying to resolve the issue, including by switching to manual control modes, the intel added.

On 30 January, a Ukrainian cyber operation halted the information exchange between the Russian Ministry of Defense units using the Moscow-based server.

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