US border Patrol drones YouTube/CNN

The US Department of Homeland Security has turned to using small drones to monitor its borders, but drug traffickers have apparently already found a way to avoid surveillance.

Timothy Bennett, a Department of Homeland Security program manager, said last week that drug smugglers are using technology to spoof and jam unmanned aircraft systems that are being used at the border.

“The bad guys on the border have lots of money. And what they are putting money into is spoofing and jamming of GPSs, so we are doing funding to look at small UAS that we can counter this,” Bennett said during a panel at the Center for Strategic & International Studies.

Spoofing is when someone is able to counterfeit the GPS signal navigating the drone. Because non-military GPS signals are not encrypted, they are vulnerable to being spoofed.

In a border patrol scenario, this means that the GPS signal from the control station could be hijacked by the “spoofer” and crashed.

Jamming is when someone uses a device to jam the GPS signal so that the drone loses its ability to determine its location or altitude.

These methods of hacking the device are nothing new.

In 2012, researchers at the University of Texas demonstrated how a remote UAS could be hijacked via a GPS spoof. At the time, lawmakers were up in arms about implementing a fix before these small drones were integrated into the national airspace.

Bennett said the DHS is currently investing in research to improve the security of the unmanned systems so that they aren’t vulnerable to these kinds of attacks.

Tech Insider reached out to the Department of Homeland Security to get more information on how often its drones were being targeted and will update when we hear back.

But Bennett did tell Defense One that the spoofing and jamming attacks were making it difficult for law enforcement abilities to map drug routes.

“You’re out there looking, trying to find out this path [they’re] going through with drugs, and we can’t get good coordinate systems on it because we’re getting spoofed. That screws up the whole thing. We got to fix that problem,” Bennett told Defense One.