Feeds

Iraqi insurgents hack US drones with $26 software

Video feed intercept

Beginner's guide to SSL certificates

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.

Beginner's guide to SSL certificates

More from The Register

next story
Knock Knock tool makes a joke of Mac AV
Yes, we know Macs 'don't get viruses', but when they do this code'll spot 'em
Shellshock over SMTP attacks mean you can now ignore your email
'But boss, the Internet Storm Centre says it's dangerous for me to reply to you'
Why weasel words might not work for Whisper
CEO suspends editor but privacy questions remain
Feds seek potential 'second Snowden' gov doc leaker – report
Hang on, Ed wasn't here when we compiled THIS document
DEATH by PowerPoint: Microsoft warns of 0-day attack hidden in slides
Might put out patch in update, might chuck it out sooner
China is ALREADY spying on Apple iCloud users, claims watchdog
Attack harvests users' info at iPhone 6 launch
NOT OK GOOGLE: Android images can conceal code
It's been fixed, but hordes won't have applied the upgrade
prev story

Whitepapers

Cloud and hybrid-cloud data protection for VMware
Learn how quick and easy it is to configure backups and perform restores for VMware environments.
Forging a new future with identity relationship management
Learn about ForgeRock's next generation IRM platform and how it is designed to empower CEOS's and enterprises to engage with consumers.
Reg Reader Research: SaaS based Email and Office Productivity Tools
Read this Reg reader report which provides advice and guidance for SMBs towards the use of SaaS based email and Office productivity tools.
Saudi Petroleum chooses Tegile storage solution
A storage solution that addresses company growth and performance for business-critical applications of caseware archive and search along with other key operational systems.
How to simplify SSL certificate management
Simple steps to take control of SSL certificates across the enterprise, and recommendations centralizing certificate management throughout their lifecycle.