Before people get carried away: Predator video links compromised
Using a $26 program from Russia, some insurgents have been able to view the video from US drones:
Senior defense and intelligence officials said Iranian-backed insurgents intercepted the video feeds by taking advantage of an unprotected communications link in some of the remotely flown planes’ systems. Shiite fighters in Iraq used software programs such as SkyGrabber — available for as little as $25.95 on the Internet — to regularly capture drone video feeds, according to a person familiar with reports on the matter.
Not control mind you. Those links are encrypted. The DOD wanted those video feeds to have as wide a distribution as possible. The only way to do that was to use commercial off the shelf (COTS) electronics and unencrypted links. Many assumed that the terrorists did not have the know how.
In from the Cold puts that baby to bed:
It’s another testament to our hubris–the same mindset that (prior to World War II) assured us that the Japanese could never produce–let alone fly–a first-class fighter, and that the B-17 would not require fighter escort to reach enemy targets. In both cases, the cost of our arrogance was measured in human lives.
The response has been muted, at least out in public:
“What do you mean the ‘compromise of the data’,” Deptula says. “Nothing is compromised. I want to get information out to the joint forces on the ground, you follow me? If someone does pick [the video feed] up and they don’t know the context of how the information is being used, what’s the compromise?”
Deptula also says the military has been aware of the vulnerability first reported yesterday by The Wall Street Journal.
“We’re talking about interception of signals that are broadcast over the air – duh,” Deptula says.
— Hacked Predator video no concern: USAF intel chief
By Stephen Trimble
What has happened, to some extent, is that the media smells a scandal. The fable of low-tech insurgents beating the high tech US military started in Vietnam. That story was false. The North Vietnamese had lots of help from the USSR. From SAM sites, to intel ships off the coast that spotted US aircraft. And lots of massive shipments of arms and equipment.
But the media likes to believe the myth. That’s why this story has some legs. The reality is that the signals were broadcast over a wide area, and anyone with a receiver could have picked them up. The terrorists needed Iranian help. That’s what matters. Many in the Obama administration think that we can deal with these maniacs.
That Iran had been exploiting this vulnerability speaks volumes over the shortsightedness of the DOD, the Bush and Obama administrations.
While the terrorists in Iraq and Afghanistan would not find much use, for Iran, Syria, China and Russia (who sells tech to nations we don’t like) this was a goldmine. They now know how we operate our UAV’s (and sensors on our aircraft too).
No UAV’s were “hacked”, the control signals are narrow band, encrypted and they don’t have the tech for that. The danger lies in future operations being compromised by our present shortsightedness.