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Hacking the DJI Phantom 3

Posted by: voidsec

Reading Time: 4 minutes

Finally, during Christmas time, I had some spare time to play with my flying beast; I’m speaking about trying to hack my DJI Phantom 3.

It was my first time that I operate with drones or similar embedded system and at the beginning I didn’t have any clue about how I could interact with it.

The Phantom 3 comes with an aircraft, controller and an Android/iOS app.

Let’s start from the beginning:

As a first step, I have analysed the protocols, the connection between the aircraft and the controller is done with Wi-Fi 5.725GHz – 5.825GHz (and not the Lightbridge protocol, for long range), while the connection between controller and mobile device is operating at 2.400GHz-2.483GHz, the controller is acting like an AP.

Wi-Fi encryption is WPA2 and the default SSID is derived from the MAC address of the remote controller: PHANTOM3_[6 last digits of MAC address]. The default associated password is: 12341234

Inside the network, I was able to find out these IP addresses:

  • Controller:
  • Aircraft:
  • Camera:
  • Phone (DJI GO App):

Interestingly, the camera is separated from the aircraft, I suppose because in that way, image feedback won’t interfere with the aircraft navigation.

Here the nmap result for every device:

Nmap scan report for
21/tcp   open   ftp        syn-ack      vsftpd 3.0.2
22/tcp   closed ssh        conn-refused
23/tcp   closed telnet     conn-refused
2345/tcp open   landesk-rc syn-ack      LANDesk remote management
5678/tcp closed rrac       conn-refused

Nmap scan report for
21/tcp   open     ftp        syn-ack     vsftpd 3.0.2
22/tcp   filtered ssh        no-response
23/tcp   filtered telnet     no-response
2345/tcp filtered unknown    no-response
5678/tcp open     tcpwrapped syn-ack

Nmap scan report for
21/tcp   open     ftp     syn-ack     BusyBox ftpd (D-Link DCS-932L IP-Cam camera)
| ftp-anon: Anonymous FTP login allowed (FTP code 230)
| total 0
| drwxr--r--    2 0        0                0 Dec 23  2016 DCIM
| drwxr--r--    6 0        0                0 Dec 23  2016 MISC
|_drwxr--r--    2 0        0                0 Dec 23  2016 System Volume Information
22/tcp   open     ssh     syn-ack     OpenSSH 6.2 (protocol 2.0)
23/tcp   open     telnet  syn-ack     BusyBox telnetd
2345/tcp filtered unknown no-response
5678/tcp filtered rrac    no-response

How you can see from the above scan, some services draw my attention:

  • FTP
  • SSH
  • Telnet
  • landesk-rc
  • rrack

Since I didn’t have any passwords for these services I decided to give a look at the Android App (DJI GO) and surprisingly, I found these details while reversing it:

  • res/raw/upgrade_config.json

  • res/raw/flyforbid.json

While the first file contains the root password for the FTP access to every device inside the network, the second file contains some areas where the drone cannot fly (no-fly zones/virtual fence) like: airports, stadiums, military bases, cities, etc.

Unfortunately, on the latest firmware (V01.07.0090), the root ftp access to the drone is chrooted and I wasn’t able to escape the /tmp directory, plus, Telnet and SSH access are disabled.

I tried to replace the firmware with a modified version but the firmware is signed and resilient to tampering.

Downgrading the firmware to its precedent version (V01.06.0080) result in an unrestricted root FTP access, so, I dumped the file system and started diving into it.


The drone underlying system is a fork of OpenWRT 14.07Barrier Breaker, r2879, 14.07” built for “ar71xx/generic“, same version for the controller.

Root access to the aircraft is something hard to achieve because the root password is strong, I tried to crack it but it resists to some days of cracking (thanks to the Hacktive Security’s guys)

So, I decided to take another path, re-enabling the Telnet service. Searching inside the filesystem I found these files:

  • /etc/init.d/rcS
  • /etc/init.d/rcS_ap
  • /etc/init.d/rcS_aphand
  • /etc/init.d/rcS_cli

These script runs during the boot process, enabling the code on line 61 will start the telnet server
telnetd -l /bin/ash &

In that way, I managed to get root access to the aircraft and the controller underlying system:

Further work:

  • Check the rrac and the landesk-rc services for some cool exploit
  • Check the device queue trying to de-authenticate mobile phone and perform the takeover
  • Check the SDK to hijack an inflight drone
  • GPS Attack
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