Iraqi insurgents appear to have been hacking into the live video feeds from U.S. spy drones using $25.95 software, the Wall Street Journal reports
. Intelligence officials told reporters that
insurgents intercepted the video feeds by taking advantage of an
unprotected communications link in some of the remotely flown planes'
systems." Security experts are puzzled and outraged that the military allowed video
feeds to go unencrypted, spurring questions about what other mistakes we're making
in the field. How did this happen?
- Two Reasons This Is Really Bad Wired's Noah Shachtman and Natha Hodge evaluate
"potentially one of the most serious military security breaches in
years." They find "the real scandal: Military officials have known
about this potential vulnerability since the Bosnia campaign. That was over 10 years ago. And, as Declan McCullagh observes, there have been a series of government reports warning of the problem
since then. But the Pentagon assumed that their adversaries in the
Middle East and Central Asia wouldn't have the smarts to tap into the
communications link." They also look at the possibility insurgents could one day push orders into the system:
This has long been the nightmare scenario within Pentagon cybersecurity
circles: a hacker not looking to take down the military grid, but to
exploit it for his own purposes. How does a soldier trust an order, if
he doesn't know who else is listening -- or who gave the order, in the
first place? "For a sophisticated adversary, it's to his advantage to
keep your network up and running. He can learn what you know. He can
cause confusion, delay your response times -- and shape your actions,"
one Defense Department cybersecurity official tells Danger Room.
- The Military's Dangerous Arrogance Spencer Ackerman blasts
the military for assuming that Iraqis wouldn't uncover the gaping
security hole. "This ought to be the subject of immediate congressional
The Journal points out, the Air Force is (somewhat reluctantly)
accepting that unmanned flights are the service's future. Can that
future really be compromised by a $26 hack and ignorant, arrogant,
xenophobic assumptions?" Ackerman adds, "Arrogance like this gets
people killed. [...] A proper respect for the capabilities and the
intelligence and the
resilience of human beings across cultures is the best remedy. But it's
the hardest one to absorb."
How We Underestimated Them Foreign Policy's Thomas Ricks explains,
"If anything, I think the enemy, being smaller and less
bureaucratic, tends to be more technologically agile than us. I
the Anaconda battle in Afghanistan in the spring of 2001 seeing solar
collectors in an al Qaeda command and control bunker high atop 'Roberts
Ridge,'" he writes. "Anyway, solar power sure beats carry
hauling batteries up the pathways along those 10,000-foot-high
- Bad in Iraq, Worse in Af-Pak DefenseTech's Christian Lowe worries,
"If they have this technology in Iraq and Afghanistan, they
certainly have it in Pakistan where the AQ and Talib chieftans are
holed up." He writes, "[C]learly this is the opening salvo in
low-cost exploitation of our
most high-tech assets and should be locked up before the
administration sends even more drones to Afghanistan for
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