Mike Tassey and Rich Perkins wanted to prove that drones can be used to crack Wi-Fi passwords, listen in on cellphone calls and read text messages. So with a garage, several off-the-shelf electronics and $6,000, the longtime friends and Air Force companions did just that.
They built a drone and installed multiple antennas on it, then gave it a go.
"We passed telephone calls, hacked into networks, cracked the encryption on Wi-Fi access points — all of that sort of evilness is possible," Tassey told WUSA-TV.
Taking care not to break any laws, they tested it out in an empty area where they could only "spy" on themselves.
The small, bright yellow flying machine has a 50-mile range but requires an actual human to either take off or land. Once in the air, though, the drone sends a signal to wireless phones just like a cellphone tower would.
Here's a look at how it works:
And now that Tassey and Perkins have proven that drones can be even more useful – or harmful – than some first thought, their concoction has landed in the nation's capital.
But it's not where you might suspect.
The drone was put on display at Washington's International Spy Museum for all to have a look.
"I think it's fantastic to have an artifact like this in the Spy Museum," museum curator Vincent Houghton told WUSA. "It's the first of its kind, it's a piece of modern espionage equipment. This is something governments should be doing and perhaps only government should be doing."
Speaking to the controversial topic of government drone use, Perkins acknowledged that if two guys from the Midwest can build something like this for $6,000 from a garage, "what can Iran do?"
"What can nation states do?" he asked.
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