December 17, 2009
Insurgents in Iraq have hacked into live video feeds from Predator drones, the U.S. military's eyes in the sky for surveillance and intelligence collection.
A senior defense official says militants could see the video, but there is no evidence they were able to jam the electronic signals from the unmanned aerial crafts or take control of them. The official spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss intelligence issues.
The Wall Street Journal first reported Thursday that Shiite fighters in Iraq used off-the-shelf software programs such as SkyGrabber - available for as little as $25.95 on the Internet - to regularly capture drone video feeds. The hacking was possible because some of the planes have an unprotected communications link. The Journal report indicates that military trainers from Iran helped Iraqi insurgents use the software to monitor U.S. raids, and the hacking may have helped tip off militants to American military plans.
Pentagon officials told the paper they had seized Shiite insurgent laptops that contained "hours" of Predator and other drone footage. Officials first became aware of the espionage in late 2008 and captured more pirated material from Iran-backed insurgents in July.
The hacking may not be isolated to Iraqi insurgents, the paper said, and could be used to compromise drone operations in Afghanistan, Yemen, Somalia and Pakistan.
The Pentagon is working to encrypt the drone feeds.
Hi-Tech vs Lo-Tech at work again.
This post has been edited by Ashrak: 17 December 2009 - 11:28 AM