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Officials say there is no evidence that flight control systems were compromised

The U.S. military makes heavy use of UAVs in many areas of the world for reconnaissance duties. The UAV is widely used in Iraq and Afghanistan as well as in Somalia and other locations. The drones are used to track and sometimes attack targets when needed.

The Wall Street Journal reports that enemy insurgents have been able to use a commonly available piece of software to intercept the unencrypted feeds that the drone uses between the aircraft and ground control. The software used by the insurgents to capture the video feeds was a $26 app available online called Sky Grabber.

One of the developers of the Sky Grabber software told the WSJ in an email, "It [Sky Grabber] was developed to intercept music, photos, video, programs and other content that other users download from the internet -- no military data or other commercial data, only free legal content."

The military claims that there is no indication that he insurgents were able to take control of the drones or interfere with their flight in any way. However, some fear that the ability to capture the live video feeds will allow the insurgents to track the position of the drones to better avoid attack and surveillance. The big fear is that intercepted feeds could be used to discover allied troop surprise attacks and lead to the death of allied soldiers.

The interception of the video feeds from the aircraft was apparently not a onetime occurrence. In the summer of 2009, the WSJ reports that the military found "days and days and hours and hours of proof" that the video feeds were being intercepted on a laptop that was recovered from a Shiite militant.

A defense official James Clapper was asked to assess the interception of the feeds and concluded, "There did appear to be vulnerability. There's been no harm done to troops or missions compromised as a result of it, but there's an issue that we can take care of and we're doing so."

The military is working on encrypting all feeds from its drone aircraft, but adding encryption to the feeds requires not only updates be added to the drones, but updates to the control systems on the ground as well. The U.S. first learned of the flaw in unencrypted drone feeds in Bosnia during the 1990s, but the Pentagon assumed that the insurgents wouldn't know how to exploit the vulnerability.

While the evidence of feeds found was most prolific in Iraq, there is evidence that the feeds have been intercepted in Afghanistan as well. "There was evidence this was not a one-time deal," said a person close to the matter.

Fixing the security gap in the drones during the program development would have added delays according to former security officials and would have added to the cost of the drones. Even the new generation of drones called Reaper have feeds that are unencrypted.

It's unclear whether the successor to the Reaper called the Avenger will suffer from the same issue with unencrypted security feeds.

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RE: **Shakes head**
By weskurtz0081 on 12/17/2009 9:43:41 AM , Rating: -1
Pretty much.... now, it's going to cost more $$$ and maybe even more lives because it wasn't fixed when initially discovered. Instead, they made a whole bunch of drones with the same problem.

RE: **Shakes head**
By dgingeri on 12/17/09, Rating: -1
RE: **Shakes head**
By gsellis on 12/17/09, Rating: 0
RE: **Shakes head**
By weskurtz0081 on 12/17/09, Rating: 0
RE: **Shakes head**
By fic2 on 12/17/09, Rating: 0
RE: **Shakes head**
By Iaiken on 12/17/09, Rating: 0
RE: **Shakes head**
By weskurtz0081 on 12/17/09, Rating: 0
RE: **Shakes head**
By Nubsicles on 12/17/2009 10:12:47 AM , Rating: 5
With this kind of careless mistake having already been made (and made again) - they should not only encrypt the feed, but broadcast a pseudo-feed in parallel.

I think rick-rolling the enemy would more than make up for this little snafu ;)

RE: **Shakes head**
By fic2 on 12/17/2009 12:35:28 PM , Rating: 1
Wouldn't call it a little snafu, but I like your idea - maybe just play a several hour delayed feed unencrypted.

RE: **Shakes head**
By kattanna on 12/17/2009 2:46:18 PM , Rating: 5
why not take it a step further and play something that will piss off the people the drone is after..

something like muhammad and osama having sex

or women walking openly about without being covered and possibly learning and thinking for themselves

RE: **Shakes head**
By Einy0 on 12/17/2009 6:56:13 PM , Rating: 2

RE: **Shakes head**
By sieistganzfett on 12/17/2009 8:54:57 PM , Rating: 2
Give a 6! :)

RE: **Shakes head**
By camylarde on 12/18/2009 4:24:18 AM , Rating: 2
;-) Yeah, broadcast them porn and all talibans will stop waging war, knowing what they are missing in their society ...

And one point, watch out for RIAA, this is public broadcast!

RE: **Shakes head**
By deltadeltadelta on 12/18/2009 5:38:58 PM , Rating: 2

RE: **Shakes head**
By Jeffk464 on 12/22/2009 1:16:48 PM , Rating: 2
Hey cool Idea, a parallel feed of their buddies getting blowed up on earlier missions. :)

RE: **Shakes head**
By Regs on 12/17/2009 10:25:15 AM , Rating: 2
It's the use it or lose it accounting policy. Instead of waiting for it to work, pay now and fix it later.

"We basically took a look at this situation and said, this is bullshit." -- Newegg Chief Legal Officer Lee Cheng's take on patent troll Soverain
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