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Security concerns after hobbyist lands 300 drone on deck of Royal Navy’s new 3bn flagship

Once it is fully operational, HMS Queen Elizabeth will doubtless be the most heavily protected vessel in the Royal Navy . For now, however, it seems the 3bn pride of the British fleet is so lightly defended that a 300 drone can be landed for an unauthorised visit to the aircraft carrier s decks.

An amateur enthusiast has told how he overflew the largest and most expensive warship ever built for Britain s armed forces with his Parrot Bebop drone before briefly landing on its vast flight deck as it sat, apparently unmanned, on Cromarty Firth in the Scottish Highlands.

I suppose I could have been a Talibani or anything.

Unnamed pilot who landed drone on HMS Queen Elizabeth

Security

The ability of a hobbyist to take a private and unchallenged remote-controlled tour of Big Lizzy will raise difficult questions about security surrounding the vessel as well as throwing into sharp relief the fact that the carrier will not have its own complement of aircraft for authorised take-offs and landings for several years to come.

The drone pilot, who asked not be named, posted footage on Facebook1 of a series of flights over the carrier while it was docked at Invergordon during ongoing sea trials before it is due to arrive at its new home port of Portsmouth as early as next week.

The enthusiast told the Inverness Courier: I was amazed that I was able to land on the aircraft carrier for two reasons, the first being that there was no-one to prevent it from landing, although there were security police around in small boats who were waving at the drone.

High winds

The amateur flier said he had been forced to land on the deck of the ship after a warning of high winds on the control panel of his drone.

He added: I expected the deck to be steel, which would send the drone s electronic landing systems haywire, but I was able to touch down OK and took a couple of shots . There was absolutely no-one around when I landed, it was like a ghost ship.

The 65,000-tonne flagship, one of two super-carriers being built for the Royal Navy, has not yet been formally handed over to the military as it continues to be fine tuned by the Aircraft Carrier Alliance, the consortium that is building both vessels.

Trials

Trials with the carriers American-built F35B Lightning aircraft are due to begin next year but the Queen Elizabeth is not due to be fully operational until 2021.

The drone pilot said he had been so concerned about his visit to the carrier that he drove to the dockyard in an attempt to explain in person to the crew what he had been doing but was told there was no-one available because all personnel were ashore at dinner.

The hobbyist added: The ship has not been commissioned by the Royal Navy yet and doesn t have aircraft, so I don t think its defence systems that could block radio signals will be fully operational .

If they were, there would be no way I would get within a mile of this vessel.

But it is worth a lot of money and I suppose I could have been a Talibani or anything.

Near misses

The incident is the latest security scare involving drones, which have been involved in multiple near misses with commercial jets landing at airports as well as criminal uses such as delivering drugs and weapons to prisons.

A Scottish MSP said he was considering tabling a question in the Edinburgh parliament about the incident.

Liberal Democrat Jamie Stone said: I think the moral of this astonishing tale is that there is a serious question about security for the Royal Navy for it would have been quite easy for someone of evil intent to do something quite serious . Even a drone crashing into its radar could cause damage.

The Ministry of Defence said it had tightened security on the carrier following the incident . An MOD spokesperson said: We take the security of HMS Queen Elizabeth very seriously .

This incident has been reported to Police Scotland, an investigation is underway and we stepped up our security measures in light of it.

References

  1. ^ footage on Facebook (www.facebook.com)

First Minister’s security enhanced after online death threats

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon1 s personal security has been beefed up in the wake of a torrent of online threats hurled at the country s political leaders. It is understood a police2 officer is now responsible for driving the SNP3 leader to events in an unmarked police car . Until now, the First Minister’s security has been minimal and she has been driven around by government civilian drivers.

In March, the Sunday Herald revealed that Police Scotland was investigating a catalogue of online abuse aimed at Sturgeon4.

The hate speech, based on hundreds of tweets, included threats of violence and sexualised insults.

One troll wrote: A f**king hate Nicola Sturgeon, wish someone would shoot the daft jock b*****d .

Another Twitter user wrote: Nicola Sturgeon needs a kick up the c**t .

Scottish Labour5 leader Kezia Dugdale and Tory counterpart Ruth Davidson6 have also been targeted online.

Sturgeon and her Ministers have until now been ferried about by pool drivers in the Government7 Car Service, but this newspaper has learned that security around the First Minister has been stepped up.

A police officer now takes the lead on driving duties and a second officer sometimes accompanies her on visits.

Stuart Crawford, a former military officer who is a security and defence consultant, said: Every public figure, whether political or not, is at risk to a certain extent . It is a case of trying to make an informed judgement of how great that risk is.

I have met Nicola on the train from Edinburgh8 to Glasgow9 and chatted to her, and that is one of the great things about the politics of the Scottish Parliament10 . You can walk down the Royal Mile and meet MSPs and Ministers, and engage with them.

But you have always got the nutter scenario – the John Lennon scenario .

So it seems to be sensible for her to have that police driver and escort, so long as it doesn t divorce her from the public.”

He added: People who might be on the receiving end of some sort of physical threat have just got to be wise to it.

The shift mirrors security changes when Alex Salmond11 was First Minister between 2007 and 2014.

His government driver doubled up as a body guard and a police officer was later drafted in to act as a personal security adviser.

John Buchan was based in the former First Minister’s private office as a “security liaison officer and was tasked with scoping out potential threats.

A Scottish Government spokesperson said: We do not comment on the First Minister s security arrangements.

References

  1. ^ Nicola Sturgeon (www.heraldscotland.com)
  2. ^ police (www.heraldscotland.com)
  3. ^ SNP (www.heraldscotland.com)
  4. ^ Sturgeon (www.heraldscotland.com)
  5. ^ Labour (www.heraldscotland.com)
  6. ^ Ruth Davidson (www.heraldscotland.com)
  7. ^ Government (www.heraldscotland.com)
  8. ^ Edinburgh (www.heraldscotland.com)
  9. ^ Glasgow (www.heraldscotland.com)
  10. ^ Parliament (www.heraldscotland.com)
  11. ^ Alex Salmond (www.heraldscotland.com)

WhatsApp security debate must be informed or we will all suffer

In the hours after last week s terrorist attack in Westminster that claimed the lives of four people, the message from the Government was one of defiance. Our way of life will not change, they said . It will be business as usual .

The British values of freedom and democracy will prevail. If there is going to be a debate on messaging and security it should at least be an informed one

Yet only four days after Khalid Masood s rampage, the Home Secretary took to the airwaves to demand that messaging services such as WhatsApp tear up their security features1, allowing police to intercept communications as part of criminal investigations. It appears that the debate about how to balance civil liberties against the Government s responsibility to keep the British public safe is about to start up all over again only four months after the so-called Snooper s Charter became law.

The Investigatory Powers Act, you may recall, requires web and phone companies to store the web and browsing histories of all users for a year. It also gives the police and security agencies powers to hack into computers and phones and to harvest vast amounts of data although the European Court of Justice s ruling in December has tempered this somewhat. Despite this major change, Amber Rudd is now targeting message services such as WhatsApp, claiming they provide a safe haven for terrorists by making it impossible for communications to be decoded, thanks to end-to-end encryption.

Giving police access in certain serious cases might sound reasonable, but unfortunately it is not that simple. Tech companies say that building a back door or security flaw into encrypted messaging systems naturally make them less secure for everyone. Ms Rudd also sounded less than clued-up when she talked about the technology she is trying to reform.

On extremist material, she asserted that the Government would speak to experts who understand the necessary hashtags to stop this stuff ever being put up . As anyone who has ever used Twitter knows, this is utter nonsense. If there is going to be a debate on messaging and security, as the Government clearly wishes, it should at least be an informed one.

References

  1. ^ demand that messaging services such as WhatsApp tear up their security features (inews.co.uk)