Military Knew Drones Could Be Hacked In 2004

The Wall Street Journal continues its coverage of the hacked drones scandal:

Senior U.S. military officers working for the Joint Chiefs of Staff discussed the danger of Russia and China intercepting and doctoring video from drone aircraft in 2004, but the Pentagon didn’t begin securing the signals until this year, according to people familiar with the matter.

The disclosure came after The Wall Street Journal reported insurgents in Iraq had intercepted video feeds from drones, downloading unencrypted communications from the unmanned planes. 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, said a person familiar with reports on the matter.

Members of the Pentagon’s Joint Staff discussed the potential security shortfall of drone feeds in 2004 and 2005, according to two officers with direct knowledge of the deliberations.

Officers at the time weren’t concerned about adversaries intercepting the signals in Iraq or Afghanistan because drones weren’t yet common there and militants weren’t thought to be technically sophisticated.

Instead, some officers worried that such potential U.S. adversaries as Russia or China could manipulate the drone video feeds to hide battlefield movements. “The main concern was that the video feeds were being intercepted, manipulated and then fed to the commanders in the field,” one of the officers said. “The fear was a commander looking on a feed, seeing nothing, and then having an enemy tank brigade come roaring into your command post.”

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  • GoodDoktorBad

    What's so shocking about this? There are so many holes in this kind of system, it was only a matter of time before this happened.
    In theory, any computer can be hacked. Fancy hardware be damned, Its just a fancy radio controlled plane- deadly as it may be. Any radio (video) transmission can be intercepted, over-ridden or disrupted by a more powerful signal. Encryption of the transmitted data is the only effective means of avoiding outside “hacking”.
    To those that don't know, encryption makes the data uninteligible to any receiving computer that doesn't have the “encryption key”. For every weapon there is another weapon to defend against it.

  • 5by5

    What's shocking is that they'd use such a low grade of encryption. Something that one of these goobers in a cave who can barely read, can hack. That's just pathetic. And it's even more pathetic considering how much the American taxpayer is spending on this high-tech crap, all to fight an enemy that is basically so backward, they haven't even really adopted the concept of a nation-state — they're still all tribal.

    • GoodDoktorBad

      I wonder how much encryption they can put in the control signals. It might cause an unacceptable delay in video and remote control function. It takes time to run the decryption on both ends (remote control and plane), not to mention the delay in relation to the distance from the plane. Just a theory…

  • I AdaM

    The military does not disclose their weaknesses quite this readily. I ask what is the reason we are being allowed to know this, for what effect? I believe this my vary well be a pretext for some “false flag” attack against Americans home or abroad, or just more fear mongering. We don't know what we are not supposed to know. I can see it now “DROWN HACKED CRASHES ON COLLISION COURSE FOR WHITE HOUSE”. or DC, etc.

  • I AdaM

    The military does not disclose their weaknesses quite this readily. I ask what is the reason we are being allowed to know this, for what effect? I believe this may vary well be a pretext for some “false flag” attack against Americans, home or abroad, or just more fear mongering. We don't know what we are not supposed to know. I can see it now “DRONE HACKED!, ON COLLISION COURSE FOR WHITE HOUSE”. or DC, etc.

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