Michael Kushin is senior vice president at CACI International Inc. He has more than 25 years of experience developing secure solutions for the Defense Department and the Intelligence Community, and is responsible for delivering cybersecurity solutions at CACI.

There has been a lot of news lately regarding the use of drones in the United States, for commercial, government, and recreational purposes. This has raised a high level of concern from Congress and the public about the use of drones and how to protect against threats they may pose. This blog post is the first of a two-part series, "Drones and Cybersecurity", that will address what the risks are, the role cybersecurity plays in mitigating the risk, and what kind of solutions can be implemented.

Drones come in all shapes and sizes, and are widely available and easily accessible to the public. This holiday season, children and adults alike will open a gift with a remote control device capable of flying hundreds of feet in the air for several miles. Meanwhile, companies will be developing new ways to employ drones in their daily business activities, and hobbyists will continue to build their own drones, many with advanced capabilities that include GPS navigation and full motion video, and capable of staying in flight for hours. The result is likely to be well-meaning children flying their model airplanes where they shouldn't; companies having accidents with their commercial drones; and the possibility that people with nefarious intent will use drones to threaten airports, aircraft, sporting events, people, and property. While the Federal Aviation Administration and Congress develop rules and legislation to help address these concerns, steps must be taken immediately to protect the public from the impact of the unintentional or nefarious use of drones.

So how does cybersecurity play into this?

Practically all drones have computers and onboard logic, and for the most part are communicating with a control system through a communications channel. This makes them susceptible to a cyber-attack, but also creates the opportunity for a defensible infrastructure, both internally and externally to the device. This requires a combination of existing and new techniques with emerging technology to provide a defense against drone threats, both accidental and intentional.

Protecting against drones won't simply be the work of the FAA and air traffic control; it will require traditional enforcement agencies including the Department of Homeland Security and state and local police. This is a big undertaking, but a necessary one as we adapt and learn to live with drones flying through our skies.

Stay tuned as the next post will offer solutions and recommendations for the FAA and Congress to address drone challenges.