Predator Feeds Hacked

A MQ-1 Predator Unmanned Aerial Vehicle launches for a night flight mission over southeastern Iraq, July 29, 2009. The aircraft serves in a surveillance and reconnaissance role but is also capable of firing two AGM-114 Hellfire missiles. Photo by Airman 1st Class Tony Ritter

A MQ-1 Predator Unmanned Aerial Vehicle launches for a night flight mission over southeastern Iraq, July 29, 2009. The aircraft serves in a surveillance and reconnaissance role but is also capable of firing two AGM-114 Hellfire missiles. Photo by Airman 1st Class Tony Ritter

Insurgents intercepted drone spy videos

Insurgents in Iraq have hacked into live video feeds from Predator drones, a key weapon in a Pentagon spy system that serves as the military’s eyes in the sky for surveillance and intelligence collection.

Though militants could see the video, there is no evidence they were able to jam the electronic signals from the unmanned aerial craft or take control of the vehicles, a senior defense official said Thursday, speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive intelligence issues.

Obtaining the video feeds can provide insurgents with critical information about what the military may be targeting, including buildings, roads and other facilities.

There have been reports of this previously, but this might be the first time its been officially acknowledged.

The fix has been to encrypt the feeds. Is it just Murdoc, or was it totally insane to not encrypt them in the first place.

Comments

  1. They’ll just decrypt the encryption. After all, it’s not as if the DoD’s restricted websites aren’t compromised a dozen times a year.

    Meanwhile, how are those RC-12 Guardrails doing?

  2. How this happened is clear (to me at least):

    Contractor demonstrates whiz-bang new drone with lots of cameras to military. Contractor just wants the damn thing to work on demo day, so it’s a pure proof-of-concept vehicle. IOW, KISS in flight.

    Military sees demo, says “I can haz dronez NOW!!!!”

    Contractor says “mucho development work still to do”

    Military says: “Bushwa!! In theatre in 30 days.”

    Contractor delivers, takes payment, and writes CYA memos for inevitable Congressional investigation.

  3. I comment on a couple of blogs run by former Navy guys, which should be obvious, being a former airdale. We’ve been discussing UAV’s for some time now, and for the past two years or so, I’ve been harping about the video link being the weak link of the entire system. There is one other link that is almost as dangerous, but that, too, should be obvious.

    Regardless, the vehicle requires an accurate, real-time video link in order to operate. It’s the tech-link between the platform and the pilot. If you want to render the platform useless, then all you have to do is disable or compromise the video link.

    You can disable the link or you can substitute your own, or you can piggy-back on it, as the enemy seems interested in doing, therefor being able to view the video stream and act upon the intel BEFORE we can.

    Our enemy knows ALL the damned levels that data has to go through before the trigger can be pulled, and that permission often takes time to get. In that time, the enemy can warn a potential target and move it before it can be hit.

    We need a better encryption system NOW.

    We also need a better set of ROE before we get more of our own guys killed. Since AW1 Tim’s son is currently in Afstan, he has a personal interest in those ROE’s.

  4. Wow.

    So my thousand dollar laptop has encryption for its wireless communications, but a five million dollar Predator armed with Hellfire missiles broadcasts in the clear? Amazing.

    I always wondered about these drones, thinking that jamming and interception of the signals for control and data would be a vulnerablity, but figured the folks in the military would have that long figured out with some wiz-bang technology that I couldn’t even fathom. I guess I was wrong.

  5. Any chance this is techno-disinformation on the part of the military? Let the haji think they are in on our intel source to feed them what we want them to see?

  6. This story isn’t passing my sniff test just yet.

    and

    Any chance this is techno-disinformation on the part of the military?

    Very possible.

    Even better would be to beam out fake Predator video with the intention that it gets “intercepted” showing something completely different than what’s really going on. Maybe toss in some genuine video once in a while to keep ’em fooled.

    Best would be if Murdoc were in on the game, helping spread the doubt. But he’s not telling. LOL.

  7. When I was the Stan, I did a five month TDY from the contract I hired on to do, to take a PSD Team for (fill in the blank). Anyway…………we lived in a purpose built walled camp not far from Kandahar Airfield (KAF). Both my principals like to relax in camp with RC airplanes. There was a predator unit operating out of KAF, and we routinely saw and heard the drones circling our area looking for whatever. Sometimes the drones flew over our camp so low (after take off I imagine) you could almost hit them with thrown objects. I used to joke with my principals I’d give them a $1000.00 if they could take control of one of the drones as it flew over, with their RC box and make it land on our perimeter road. I guess it’s a good thing for me they weren’t more ambitious, or technically astute! LOL!

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