Japan is slated to remove its Chinese-made drones currently in use in independent government agencies, citing security risks, according to the Yomiuri Shimbun.
In the next few years, the Japanese government plans to replace its fleet of more than 1,000 drones made by China’s leading manufacturer DJI with domestically-produced ones, which are under development with government support, the Yomiuri Shimbun reported.
Japanese authorities will also introduce stricter restrictions on new drone purchases, which will have to go through a risk assessment beforehand.
The recent moves result from Japan’s rising worries that as standards for 5G wireless technology become more commonplace, drones “present risks of information theft via cyber-attacks and drone hijacking,” according to the report.
“If they are hijacked by a third party, they can be used maliciously for terrorism and crimes,” explained a Cabinet Secretariat official.
Drones are frequently used for photography, infrastructure maintenance, and defense purposes. They connect to outside networks while working in the air, and any data they collect could be vulnerable without adequate security precautions, according to a Nikkei report, noting that Tokyo is seeking to prevent outside actors from taking control of government drones or extracting data from them.
DJI Under Suspicion
Established in 2006 and headquartered in Shenzhen city, southern China’s Guangdong province, DJI is the world’s largest manufacturer of commercial drones. According to Nikkei, the firm has 70 percent to 80 percent of the global drone market. Its units, while affordable, are widely considered less secure.
In January 2020, the U.S. Department of the Interior grounded its fleet of DJI drones over security issues.
Researchers at cyber firms Synacktiv and GRIMM recently found that DJI’s mobile app contained features that accessed large amounts of user personal information and could leave users vulnerable to malicious attacks.
William R. Evanina, director of the National Counterintelligence and Security Center, said in a New York Times interview: “Every Chinese technology company is required by Chinese law to provide information they obtain, or information stored on their networks, to Chinese authorities if requested to do so.” He believed that all Americans should be concerned that their “images, biometrics, locational and other data stored on Chinese apps” could be turned over to China’s state security apparatus.
China’s State Security Law and National Intelligence Law stipulate that “any organization or citizen shall support, assist, and cooperate with the state intelligence work.”
The two laws came into effect respectively on July 1, 2015 and June 28, 2017.