Thursday, December 17, 2009

Hacking Drones

One of the bigger news stories today is the report that militants in Iraq used off-the-shelf software to intercept and view the live video feed from a Predator drone. Presumably this would help them evade a drone attack. U.S. officials are trying to play down the story and emphasize that the militants did not take control of any drone or interfere with their flight or mission. The Wall Street Journal broke the subject in an article today titled, Insurgents Hack U.S. Drone: $26 Software Is Used to Breach Key Weapons in Iraq; Iranian Backing Suspected.

The drone intercepts mark the emergence of a shadow cyber war within the U.S.-led conflicts overseas. They also point to a potentially serious vulnerability in Washington's growing network of unmanned drones, which have become the American weapon of choice in both Afghanistan and Pakistan. . . .

U.S. military personnel in Iraq discovered the problem late last year when they apprehended a Shiite militant whose laptop contained files of intercepted drone video feeds. In July, the U.S. military found pirated drone video feeds on other militant laptops, leading some officials to conclude that militant groups trained and funded by Iran were regularly intercepting feeds.

The U.S. is apparently responded to these findings by attempting to add encryption to video feeds from drones. However, ready available encryption systems may not be compatible with the proprietary technology used by General Atomics Aeronautical Systems Inc. for communication between the drone and those remotely controlling the aircraft. Furthermore, encryption may slow down the sharing of time-sensitive information.

No comments: