Feeds

Iraqi insurgents hack US drones with $26 software

Video feed intercept

Combat fraud and increase customer satisfaction

Updated Iraqi militants are intercepting sensitive video feeds from US predator drones using $26 off-the-shelf software, and the same technique leaves feeds from most military aircraft vulnerable to snooping, according to published reports.

Insurgents backed by Iran have regularly accessed the unencrypted video feeds of the unmanned planes, which the Obama administration has increasingly relied on to monitor and attack militants. The insurgents then share the footage with multiple extremist groups, according to a report from The Wall Street Journal, which was published Thursday. It's not clear if the problem has been fixed.

The security lapse was discovered late last year when US military personnel in Iraq apprehended a Shiite militant with a laptop that contained intercepted drone video feeds. In July, personnel found additional feeds on other militant laptops, leading some officials to believe that groups tied to Iran were regularly tapping in to the unprotected communications link used by the drones.

The military found "days and days and hours and hours of proof" that the feeds were being intercepted and shared with a variety of militant groups, the WSJ said, citing an unnamed person familiar with the reports.

The network linking the drones to operators in the US, Afghanistan, or Pakistan is more than a decade old, and many of its components will have to be upgraded to prevent insurgents from intercepting feeds. Officials have stepped up efforts to protect the system, but "it wasn't yet clear if the problem had been completely resolved," according to the WSJ.

To access the feeds, the militants have been using SkyGrabber, a publicly available program that pulls movies and music off satellites and sells for $26.

In an article published later Thursday, Wired.com reported that the US military's primary system for sharing overhead surveillance with soldiers and Marines on the ground is also suscepible to the electronic interception using SkyGrabber. The system - known as ROVER, short for remotely operated video enhanced receiver - is installed on "nearly every airplane in the American fleet," the report said.

Military officials are working to close the massive security hole, but one of them cautions: "This is not a trivial solution. Almost every fighter/bomber/ISR [intelligence surveillance reconnaissance] platform we have in theater has a ROVER downlink."

US officials say there is no evidence that militants have been able to take control of the drones. Still, the interception is a significant because it could give enemies considerable battlefield advantages.

The WSJ article is here, and the Wired.com article is here. ®

This article was updated to include details reported by Wired.com.

Combat fraud and increase customer satisfaction

Whitepapers

Securing web applications made simple and scalable
In this whitepaper learn how automated security testing can provide a simple and scalable way to protect your web applications.
Combat fraud and increase customer satisfaction
Based on their experience using HP ArcSight Enterprise Security Manager for IT security operations, Finansbank moved to HP ArcSight ESM for fraud management.
The benefits of software based PBX
Why you should break free from your proprietary PBX and how to leverage your existing server hardware.
SANS - Survey on application security programs
In this whitepaper learn about the state of application security programs and practices of 488 surveyed respondents, and discover how mature and effective these programs are.
3 Big data security analytics techniques
Applying these Big Data security analytics techniques can help you make your business safer by detecting attacks early, before significant damage is done.