Yesterday, Thursday 17th December, the Wall Street Journal reported that Iraqi Militants have been able to intercept live video feeds from U.S. Predator drones.
Why is this important? By intercepting the feeds the militants are able to identify areas that are being targeted.
The use of unmanned drones in the conflicts in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan has increased six-fold and they have been the source of much debate and controversy, particularly in Pakistan where they have led to numerous civilian deaths.
The drones constitute some of the most sophisticated weaponry in the US Army’s arsenal and so the hacking, which was achieved using readily available software, can be seen as an embarrassment!
According to reports, the hacking was first discovered 12 months ago when hours worth of recordings were found on laptops captured from militants. Now, you’d think that hacking into this expensive equipment would require some sort of super computer, or at least expensive software, right?
Well, not really. It seems that this was achieved using a $26 software tool, Skygrabber. According to a description on its website, Skygrabber is a software that can be used to intercept satellite data and save the information on your hard-disk!
According to military sources, adding encryption to the streams would have been expensive and it would have caused delays, because of the proprietary nature of the communication technology used.
“There’s a balance between pragmatics and sophistication,” Mike Wynne, Air Force Secretary from 2005 to 2008.
That’s absolutely true, Mr. Wynne, but it was obviously, you know, important!