In one of the documentary-style trailers for the upcoming video game Call of Duty: Black Ops II, military experts foretell disaster when terrorists hackers remotely commandeer thousands of U.S. drones.
Now, the plot lines of war-based video games, especially the newer ones, have grown increasingly far-fetched, but a University of Texas professor proved this week that this one is slightly more likely.
Challenged by the Department of Homeland Security, UT Professor Todd Humphreys and a team of researchers from the school’s Radionavigation Laboratory successfully hacked into a surveillance drone flying over Austin stadium and caused it to plummet toward the ground, saving it from harm at the last possible moment.
Humphreys and his team didn’t exactly have access to the millions of dollars the U.S. government spends on developing and building these surveillance airplanes. They built their hacking device — called a GPS spoofer — with just $1,000.
The researchers told Fox News that the experiment proves drones are vulnerable to terrorist hijackers with a little money and some skill with GPS programming.
“In 5 or 10 years you have 30,000 drones in the airspace,” Humpreys said. “Each one of these could be a potential missile used against us.”
The professor is referring to an ongoing controversy over whether to allow drones — even combat drones of the sort used for assassinations in the Middle East and elsewhere — in U.S. airspace. The Pentagon is working with the Federal Aviation Administration to make drones available for commercial use by 2015. Congress, under pressure from defense companies and the military, has pushed for the same thing.
Many of those will likely be used for surveillance by local police. The City of Arlington has already spent more than $200,000 investing in drones.
The Call of Duty trailer about the “drone-hacking threat” includes an appearance by Oliver North, who was widely criticized for the misuse of the American military during the Iran-Contral scandal of the mid-80s.
There’s money to be made from both drones and video games.
Watch the game trailer here.