WASHINGTON — Militants in Iraq have used $26 off-the-shelf software to intercept live video feeds from U.S. Predator drones, potentially providing them with information they need to evade or monitor U.S. military operations.
Senior defense and intelligence officials said Iranian-backed insurgents intercepted the video feeds by taking advantage of an unprotected communications link in some of the remotely flown planes’ systems. Shiite fighters in Iraq used software programs such as SkyGrabber — available for as little as $25.95 on the Internet — to regularly capture drone video feeds, according to a person familiar with reports on the matter.
U.S. officials say there is no evidence that militants were able to take control of the drones or otherwise interfere with their flights. Still, the intercepts could give America’s enemies battlefield advantages by removing the element of surprise from certain missions and making it easier for insurgents to determine which roads and buildings are under U.S. surveillance. (Source)
To sum up this article: Insurgents are using Pringles cans and cheap software to bypass our million dollar equipment. Ladies and gentlemen, this is a prime example of the fuckery that goes into politics. This is not shocking to anyone with any knowledge of how our government procures and maintains its equipment. Equipment is bought and sold from the lowest bidder, not what actually works the best. Then functionality is stripped out to cut even more costs to make it more attractive for Congress to sign off on. And when it comes to upgrades? That can take years…or in this case…decades. The fuckery of this process is common knowledge. The article says that military officials have known about this issue since 1998. The claim is that they just didn’t think the lowly insurgents in Iraq and Afghanistan would be knowledgeable enough to exploit it. That’s bullshit for several reasons. First off, even your most computer illiterate person these days knows that an unsecured wireless link is a huge security risk. There’s a reason why just about everyone uses a WEP key (or better) to protect their wireless home networks. You want me to believe that no one, NO ONE, thought it wise to secure an unencrypted link on a military network? Then, to say that you thought the insurgents wouldn’t be technologically advanced enough to figure it out when we spent the last 8 years listening about how the terrorists are using cyberspace is just bullshit. The article hints at the real problem:
Officials stepped up efforts to prevent insurgents from intercepting video feeds after the July incident. The difficulty, officials said, is that adding encryption to a network that is more than a decade old involves more than placing a new piece of equipment on individual drones. Instead, many components of the network linking the drones to their operators in the U.S., Afghanistan or Pakistan have to be upgraded to handle the changes. Additional concerns remain about the vulnerability of the communications signals to electronic jamming, though there’s no evidence that has occurred, said people familiar with reports on the matter.
For those that don’t understand what that means, let me explain. You know those defense appropriation bills that Liberals love to rail against and say are unnecessary? Yup…this goes to that. That “pork” that old ass John “I barely know what a computer is” McCain likes to say needs to be taken out? Yup, this is “pork”. See, you have a bunch of old folks in Congress that don’t understand this shit. So when you tell them you need $10 million to upgrade the decades old network equipment and software, they put it off. Instead money goes to funding F-22 we don’t need because the parts for the plane are built in different states and the senators for that state don’t want to support losing those jobs. And so money is diverted from what we do need to something we don’t and we end up with security breaches like this. Now that its in the Wall Street Journal, expect to see money for this attached to some bill in the near future but only because it makes people look bad.
This sadly, is how shit works in our government. This is why I chuckle at progressives being upset at the Health Care Reform bill. The problem is the system. To be honest an “easy” fix is to putting a limit on the number of consecutive terms people in Congress can have. But that would then require a vote in the Congress…….and Congressmen/women aren’t going to vote on limiting their own power. So the cycle continues. Welcome to politics people.