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We Talked to the Guy Selling a Pre-Hacked Drone on eBay

Brand new, never flown, rooted.

by Ben Sullivan
Jul 14 2017, 3:00pm

Image: Shutterstock / Composition: Ben Sullivan

The hobbyist drone community is in the midst of a hacking bonanza. Hundreds of drone owners are signing up to online forums that detail methods of circumventing flight restrictions imposed by drone manufacturer DJI, and DJI itself is fighting back against these hackers by removing the software that is vulnerable to being hacked.

Now, one of the hackers at the center of the movement has taken it into the next logical phase: He's selling pre-hacked DJI drones.

"Someone was inevitably going to sell [a drone] jailbroken, rooted, or modded," Kevin Finisterre, who created the Red Herring DJI exploit, which helps put users in a position to remove the company's no-fly zones, altitude, and speed limits by providing root access, told me today. "I figured I would just compress the timeframe in which it occurred."

Finisterre has this week listed the very first jailbroken DJI drone on eBay.

The eBay listing for the ready-hacked DJI Spark.

"Public methods are now available for both 'rooting' and 'jailbreaking,' but sometimes we just want to be lazy and have something handed to us on a silver platter. Here is your unique chance! Enjoy!" his description reads.

The drone, a DJI Spark that retails for $499 on the official DJI US store, is rooted with an exploit developed by Finisterre earlier in July and detailed in Motherboard's report on the drone hacking community.

The modifications mean that DJI's manufacturer restrictions—a maximum altitude of 50 meters and a maximum distance away from the pilot of 100 meters—no longer apply to the drone.

Read more: DJI Is Locking Down Its Drones Against a Growing Army of DIY Hackers

With a 'buy it now' price of $900, it's not cheap, either, but Finisterre explains his motives in the item's description. Essentially, it's one hour of his labor at $150 per hour, plus the cost of the drone he originally bought from Best Buy. Half of the profits will be going to charity, too.

Though DJI told Motherboard it doesn't want its customers to hack their drones, whether or not it's actually illegal to do is quite tricky (as we mentioned in our earlier report).

The art of jailbreaking has become commonplace in the smartphone industry, allowing DIY hackers to modify devices like the iPhone to use software that Apple doesn't allow. And there are thousands of these pre-hacked devices for sale on eBay. For example, there's a bustling online market for pre-jailbroken Amazon Fire Sticks that are hacked to play pirated content.

But this is the first pre-hacked drone that we know of that has been listed on the auction site. With so many pilots wanting to break free from DJI's restriction, it most likely won't be the last.

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