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Homeland Security reportedly warns of Chinese-made drones stealing data

The latest piece of Chinese technology under fire from the US government is drones, reports say.

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DJI's drones could be under fire thanks to an advisory reportedly put out by the Department of Homeland Security warning against using Chinese-made drones in the US.

The US Department of Homeland Security is reportedly warning about data security issues when using Chinese-made drones.

The government is concerned commercial drones made in China and used in the US are being used to steal data or infect networks with malware, according to CyberScoop and Politico.

An advisory against using these drones would include Chinese drone maker DJI's extensive portfolio, including the DJI Spark. and the DJI Mavic Air, which CNET has reviewed as being "a folding 4K mini drone that's close to perfect."

The reported warning follows networking equipment from Chinese tech giant Huawei being blacklisted by the US government and Huawei essentially banned via an executive order from Trump last week, and Google removing Android updates from Huawei phones.

Huawei is seeing a slight reprieve, though; the US Commerce Department has created a temporary license until Aug. 19 for Huawei to keep existing networks and provide software updates to existing phones, according to Reuters.

DHS' Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) reportedly put out an industry alert saying to "be cautious" when purchasing this drone technology.

"They can contain components that can compromise your data and share your information on a server accessed beyond the company itself," the advisory reportedly says. "Other concerns are that an organization is susceptible to data theft if the drone is transmitting unencrypted data or, more broadly, that a drone could increase the risk of a network being breached."

In a statement sent to CNET, a CISA spokesperson confirmed that it sent out the industry alert, saying it provided information on the "risks associated with using UAS technology manufactured in China and measures to reduce such risk".

On its unmanned aircraft systems page, CISA lists the threats of using drones as being weaponized or smuggling payloads, prohibited surveillance and reconnaissance, intellectual property theft, and intentional disruption or harassment.

DJI says safety is the core of its technology.

"The security of our technology has been independently verified by the US government and leading US businesses," DJI said in a statement. "We give all customers full and complete control over how their data is collected, stored, and transmitted. For government and critical infrastructure customers that require additional assurances, we provide drones that do not transfer data to DJI or via the internet and our customers can enable all the precautions DHS recommends."

First published at 4:55 p.m. PT on May 20.
Updated May 21 at 9:20 a.m. PT: Adds CISA's response.

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