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Anyone with a wireless network, home or at the plant should prepare because a flying robo-hacker could fly over and compromise Wi-Fi networks.

SkyNET combines a toy helicopter and a computer configured to attack Wi-Fi networks. The result is a drone that can compromise computers on wireless networks and convert them into botnets, which can hack into systems, provide denial-of-service attacks, and just plain spam.

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By controlling the botnet from a drone rather than an Internet connection, the botmaster is harder to track down. In order for the victim to catch the attacker he would first have to figure out a spy plane was the culprit, and then he would have to follow it back to its owner. Either that or catch it and do a full-blown forensic investigation.

The prototype SkyNET drone is a Parrot AR.Drone quadrocopter fitted with a lightweight Linux computer, 3G mobile broadband connection, GPS receiver, and a pair of Wi-Fi cards — one for controlling the drone and one for attacking wireless networks. You can build the entire rig for less than $600.

Cyber Security

SkyNET’s creators are from Stevens Institute of Technology. They’re working to make the system even less expensive, said Sven Dietrich, computer science professor at Stevens.

They do offer ways to defend against the attack, most of which involve shoring up wireless home networks by detecting new connections.

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