Belgian police are concerned about espionage via drones

Belgian police are concerned about espionage via drones

The Chinese drones that Belgian and Dutch police and emergency services use are probably not safe. After an investigation, the Belgian federal police has decided not to use the drones anymore for “sensitive assignments”, according to the Belgian news site demorgen.

Is China watching?

The Belgian police and emergency services use 114 drones. 85 of these drones are from the Chinese manufacturer Da Jiang Innovations. DJI has often been negatively in the news. The global market leader in commercial drones is said to be leaking data to the Chinese government. Malware could also be installed on the phones of people using the drones.

Despite possible security and privacy risks, the Dutch police and Rijkswaterstaat also use DJI drones. The drones were used more than a thousand times this year, for example during investigation activities and during demonstrations.

The police are aware of the privacy risks and have taken measures to reduce them. For example, the DJI drones are not used in sensitive operations, where confidential data is processed.

After an investigation, the Belgian police have also decided not to carry out ‘sensitive assignments’ with Chinese drones. This investigation was carried out in collaboration with intelligence services. The Belgian police have been aware of the potential safety risks of Chinese drones for some time, but now want to be extra careful.

The police risk analysis does not show that it is currently necessary to completely decommission the DJI drones. The federal police will soon carry out a number of technical interventions to reduce the risk of data leaks via drones.

Drones and Security Risks

Since the arrival of the drone, there have been discussions about privacy and security in various countries. At the beginning of this year, research was conducted in the United States into the safety risks of China’s drones. In December 2020, the Chinese drone maker DJI was already added to a ‘blacklist’ in the United States. The aircraft would pose a potential threat to national security.

In September 2021, the French police also decided to stop using camera drones. The national regulator CNIL concluded that the police violated privacy legislation with these drones.

The same issue also arises in the Netherlands. In October, the Labor Party (PvdA) asked for clarification about the use of Chinese drones by the police. Barbara Kathmann of the PvdA wants to know why the police and Rijkswaterstaat continue to use Chinese drones while the Ministry of Defense considers the drones unsafe. She also wants to know what requirements have been set when tendering the drones and whether data security has been taken into account.

DJI continues to insist that the drones are safe.

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