According to The Wall Street Journal, Shiite militias in Iraq have used SkyGrabber, a piece of software developed in Russia for pirating satellite TV signals, to intercept the data feed from US drones. And while they haven't been able to hack into the drone to take control, this development helps neutralize one of America's key technological advantages.
The hacking takes advantage of the aging network that the drone feeds travel through. Created over a decade ago, the military data network uses drastically out of date encryption. Updating the encryption requires the production of entirely new hardware, and the military decided to forgo encryption upgrades to save money and production time, and to ease the sharing of information across military services and between US allies.
US intelligence became aware of the problem when agents found videose from Predator drones saved on captured insurgent laptops. According to senior officials who spoke to The Wall Street Journal, seized laptops contained what amounts to days of footage. To get an idea of what that footage looked like, you can watch our annotated video of a Predator drone missile strike.
The military claims that they are working to fix the problem, but that a great deal of insecurity remains. Additionally, new evidence indicates that the skills to compromise US drone feeds has migrated to Afghanistan, as well. The spread to Afghanistan may cause the US even more trouble than in Iraq, as the US uses drone in Afghanistan and Pakistan far more frequently than they do in Iraq.
And while The Wall Street Journal blames Iran for teaching the insurgents how to conduct this counter-intelligence operation, I have a hunch that the Iraqis were just trying to download a bootleg copy of Avatar, and simply snatched the wrong file. Torrents can be tricky like that.
Great. Skynet is not far behind.
What would prompt the military to use outdated encryption technologies on drones with such sophisticated surveillance equipment and armed weaponry?
I hope they get this fixed quick. I can not foresee it being THAT difficult to reprogram the drone hardware with new software. Why in the world would it requite all new hardware?
In the first Transformers movie they figured out a way to DIY a morse code message through a computer in 10 minutes or less. Anything can be reprogrammed. Lego Mindstorm it!
I read this and all I can think are semantics.
Hacking suggests that there were deliberate attempts to secure data by either encrypting the signal or using unique video encoding (or maybe both at the same time). The software, mentioned in the WSJ, is apparently for bootlegging satellite TV. It's a video decoder. It just like trying to play a video that you do not have the codec for. Go find it, and you can watch the video. I can't call it hacking.
That the video feed from the Predator is no more complex to decode than satellite TV, does not reflect well on General Atomic and the Air Force's choice in design specs.
What is the military thinking? How can they decide to not create new hardware? All the money spent on the drones to begin with and they do not come up with a new way to protect their security.
If I were to buy a car, I would take care of it to protect my investments, not let its quality just dwindle because of other factors.
This is unnacceptable
Perhaps use this information to decieve your pray, is it real or not?
I agree, use this "flaw" to send disinformation, show no troops when there are really some there, show troops where there are none, let them watch as the missle is dropping on their location. "Stage" an "attack" on a location just to see who comes running out. I think there are many mind games that this can but of use!
Do you honestly think they would tell us if they lost control of a drone to a hostile?
I think the main problem is using hardware encryption.
If they had used software encryption instead, they could update it really easily and fast.
Plus, software could be deleted automatically if the UAV falls down for any reason. Instead of risking anybody getting their hands onto the secret encryption hardware.
unique_seeker and josephu,
i don't think you'd be able to fake an attack using the video feed. first you'd have to know someone's watching, which isn't possible since this is probably a broadcast satellite signal and not some sort of intercepted "laser feed" coming directly from the drone. second, if the video shows 100 combat troops about to break the door down, and there isn't anyone outside or anyone making noise for miles around then it would probably be pretty clear that it's fake.
Deception plans are part of strategic and tactical operations.
"According to officials who spoke to the Wall Street Journal..."
Yeah. They usually tell everyone about intelligence.
Deceive the enemy. Back the deception plan up by having officials talking to the Wall Street Journal back home.
Leaking deliberately faulty "intelligence" by allowing the enemy to deccrypt messages encrypted with compromised cyphers is as old as cryptography.
lol, deceiving them by fact attack, thats funny.
Could they also take control of the drone or just download the data it was sending in air?
If they could upload data on that drone and take control of it, they could use it against us right, like, they could be feeding wrong video data to us, or use the drone like kamikaze.
I can believe this article, military intelligence isn't as incredible as you think, and everyone asking why they haven't upgraded, the article tells you. Not worth the money, easier to share information with allies, etc.
Seen military stupidity in action first hand. Military intelligence was a far rarer sight.
$26... I might want that software for Christmas.
For all of you whome believe this article. This is why you are called lemmings.
All i have to say about this, is "HAAAAAAAAAAAHAHAHAHAHAHAAHAHAHahahahahahhhhahahahahhahhah......................"
LOL! Well they didnt have the money cause they used it all on the Commanders chair and desk for his office. Being in the military, I know we waste so much money on expensive conference desks and commander office furniture. It's sick to see that go on to me. My job i drive big trucks that were built in the 80's and are falling apart. BUT! they dont have the money to keep them up and safely running. Which makes my job even harder. As long as my commander has a $16,000 desk i guess thats what matters then.
Sad to think that we're not willing to spend money to save the lives of the men and women who are defending this country.
They did get control of one. I remember reading they had to have a pilot shoot one down in Iraq. They told the media they lost contact with it. Now we know the real truth.
This is just beyond belief. The fact that a bunch of people who live in caves are able to view and get intelligence on video feeds live from Predator drones and such is just incredibly stupid on the part of the military.
Is it so hard to think that if Iran can figure out how to view the video feeds, how about other countries with more "up to date" technology like China/Russia, etc. Not only are they aware exactly of what are capabilities are, they know how we employ them and what the response time is for how quickly we can react to the situation on the ground.
I realize that the Predator was created using "off the shelf" parts and such, but come on, using old data networks that are unencrypted??? That's like buying crap online and telling everyone your bank account number and PIN information. Somebody out there is listening and will take advantage of it.
Of all the high tech stuff we've got, and you're telling me our communications lines aren't secure??? Whoever let that slip should be FIRED! All the research and development that costs US taxpayers billions of dollars a year, and you're just giving it away to other countries AND our enemies???
the only question that i want to ask here is this:
how many of the people in the above posts who criticized the military for not spending the extra money for better equipment are the same people who crucify the military in other posts under articles about the military devolping new technologies?
could you get your opinions straight, please?
So, they picked up the signal and saw the un-encrypted video feeds. Big deal. Those signals never controled the drones or their weapon systems. Those signals are encripted. The video feed was not encrypted so that it would feed faster - since video feed is data heavy and its worth is rather minimal.
These people are in charge of our nukes.
ALL I HAVE TO SAY IS WOW HOW CRAPPY DOES THE MILITARY LOOK RIGHT NOW
Isn't this the same military that is required (because we demanded it) to go with the job done by the lowest bidder?
I'm sure that old, outdated hardware encryption and slower data transmission are cheaper than a whole new code, hardware, and software system.
Even the US military has a budget, believe it or not.
To the rock that said just to upgrade the software, its quite a bit harder than installing your wireless router. Software encoding requires a lot of processing power. Hardware encoding is purpose built and has the capacity to encode and transmit in near real time.
To the under achiever who drives a truck, A commander has much more value than some slugs who's crowning achievement is being able turn a steering wheel. Why dont you go back to school so you can be a commander with a fancy desk?
I love this site!
I KNEW IT I KNEW IT I KNEW!!!!!!!!!!
I've been saying it since the beginning "if you can build it, Ican break it."
Now, once more, with feeling, "THIS IS A BAD IDEA!!!!!!!"
Until they can develop anti-hacking HARDWARE to prevent Muhammed Sanddevil, or whoever, from taking control of a drone and pointing it at OUR people, they should not be armed!!!
Hell!! Even UNarmed their a threat, or am I the only one who remembers 09/11/01???!!!
I dig the tech, I love the gadgets, but, at the risk of repating myself I'll repeat myself: "THIS IS A (VERY,VERY,VERY,REALLY, REALLY)BAD IDEA!!!!"
Think about this: What's next? A shuttle launch, perhaps?!"
Next thing you know, UAV's everywhere gets hacked and 9/11 all over again, only terrorists don't die in the attack. And one more thing, SCREW THE BUDGET. National safety is more important than money.
This is a bit of a shame isn't it. Surprising that the most advanced military force in the world relied on outdated encryption for crucial data transfers. More surprising though, is that they knew the importance of data encryption right from the start when remote operation of unmanned vehicles are conceptualised, yet did nothing about it. But I guess this is what happens when military funding is on a tight leash all the time. Lesson learnt better now than later, I guess.
what the #@$%$ is go on.
Did anyone even read the article? In no way are they able to take control of the drone. They simply get to watch the video feed of their friends being blown up.
One of the main reasons the network is not as secure as it could be is that most NATO allies do not have the same military budget that the US does, in order to communicate effectively with our allies our technology level must be lowered.
It’s like running with a friend who is not in great shape. You have to go slower so they can keep up.
SCREW THE BUDGET!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!