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Drones: Cyber Exposures

By May 24, 2017July 20th, 2017Personal Insurance

Unmanned aerial drones, also called unmanned aircraft systems (UAS), are a new type of aircraft that has broad commercial and personal uses. UAS can be used to inspect  buildings, deliver materials or fly around as simple, recreational products. However, as UAS become more advanced and widespread, they can represent a significant new threat to your business.

The exposures caused by UAS have been widely covered by the media.  UAS technology advances, new risks such as cyber security and privacy need to be considered. You need to be aware of how UAS can impact your business, and what you can do to protect it.

Consider the Technological Risks

Since most drones are small and widely viewed as advanced hobbyist aircraft or toys, you may not consider them substantial threats. However, many small UAS are already equipped with advanced cameras and listening devices, and they also present other risks to your business’s privacy.

Researchers have demonstrated that drones equipped with smartphones can access data from a business’s insecure networks and devices. Additionally, these drones can access areas that a normal person could not, such as the top floor of a building or outside the window of a secured room.

Any of your business’s Wi-Fi networks, computers or wireless printers could also be targeted by a properly equipped drone.

The cyber security risks of drones will only be compounded by additional features that make UAS easier to use and even autonomous. As GPS and sensor technology improves, the owner of a UAS could instruct a drone to automatically monitor your business, disrupt its operations or steal its data.

Be Aware of Federal and Local Regulations

UAS are still considered aircraft, and must be registered with the FAA. Here are the basic guidelines for registering UAS:

  • UAS that weigh between 0.55 pounds and 55 pounds must be registered online. If a UAS weighs more than 55 pounds, it must be registered by paper.
  • Once registered, the UAS operator will receive a registration number that must be placed on all applicable drones.
  • Registration is valid for three years. Failing to register may result in regulatory and criminal sanctions.

The FAA also has regulations that apply to both commercial and recreational UAS:

  • Drones must fly below a height of 400 feet above ground level and weigh 55 pounds or less.
  • An operator must maintain a visual line of sight with his or her drone.
  • Drones cannot fly within 5 miles of an airport, and must remain clear of all manned aircraft and obstacles.
  • Drones cannot be flown near people or open-air stadiums.
  • The FAA currently considers UAS to be in the same category as manned aircraft. As a result, any attempt to damage or destroy a drone can result in federal penalties-up to 20 years in prison and $25,000 in fines.
  • Operators should look up state and local laws concerning the use of UAS before operation.

For more details on the FAA rules regarding the commercial use of drones, visit the FAA’s website.

The risks of UAS technology may seem difficult to protect against, but there are steps you can take to keep your business safe.

Contact us at 800-572-0939 today; we have additional resources that can help your business safely incorporate drones into its operations. These include an additional Risk Insights article, “Drones: The New Risk Exposures to Your Business,” that serves as a guide to UAS liability coverage and the risks of commercial UAS use.