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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 T2k on 12/17/2009 2:32:50 PM , Rating: -1
Outside of cost, do you think there could have been a reason they chose NOT to encrypt the feed?

Of course there was, he just correctly pointed it out: it was decided by a bunch of brain-dead, clueless-useless, stupid-@ss higher-up fucktards in the Pentagon[/b] - there are plenty of these utterly fuckin' clueless drones in the military.

I've never imagined these drones could be using unencrypted feeds - another typical example of how completely fucked-up is our "mighty" military.

Of course, these clueless fuckers will all walk and [b]likely to get "congrats" form the industrial-military complex for creating them another round of orders on the scale of more billions...[/b]

...fuckin' PoS military industry, an utterly crooked sack of shit.

RE: **Shakes head**
By weskurtz0081 on 12/17/2009 3:00:30 PM , Rating: 4
Well, clearly you don't understand what I am asking.

Are you fully aware of the limitations that were faced back in the early 90's when these things were being designed.

Are you fully aware of the reasoning that was involved when the final decision was made to not encrypt the feed?

Or, are you just going to act like some keyboard gangster, slinging curse words around and making everything bold for some reason.

How many years did you spend in the military, how familiar with the limitations and decision making process that were involved when the Predator was designed?

RE: **Shakes head**
By Smilin on 12/18/2009 12:39:51 PM , Rating: 4
So I'll answer on his behalf (to spare us both the rant).

I am sure there were a great deal of limitations and challenges when this project was underway. However all of these variables that are unknown to you and I are irrelevant.

The need to encrypt realtime intelligence data trumps all other reasoning.

And to answer your other questions:
1 tour in military - Naval aviation.
Not familiar at all with processes during predator design.

RE: **Shakes head**
By weskurtz0081 on 12/18/2009 5:46:36 PM , Rating: 2
So, your answer is, regardless of what was required, how feasible it was, if it was reasonably possible at that time, it should have been done.

I was also in the military, in aviation, specifically avionics, 1 tour.

“So far we have not seen a single Android device that does not infringe on our patents." -- Microsoft General Counsel Brad Smith
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