Posted by: adoseofliberty | December 20, 2009

Predator Peeping

Here’s something you wish was only a joke on Saturday Night Live:

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.

Let’s see here: unmanned Predator spy planes that cost $4.5 million apiece are being rendered useless (at least in the reconnaisance aspect) by $26 computer software.  That’s an astonishing 17,300% return on investment for the enemy.

It’s wonderful that these drones can be controlled by pilots thousands of miles away and are able to “beam back live video for up to 22 hours.”  But when the people whom you’re watching are watching the same thing you are, you might as well broadcast it live on Al Jazeera.

According to BBC News:

Shia fighters are said to have used off-the-shelf software programs such as SkyGrabber to capture the footage.

The hacking was possible because the remotely flown planes have an unprotected communications link.

How is it possible, you ask, that the military has deployed drones and been flying Predator missions for years using unencrypted communications?  They’ll get back to you on that, once that information is declassified.

This could only be a scene in a Schwartzenegger movie or an episode of “24”:

The breach of the Pentagon surveillance system’s security is said to have come to light when footage shot by a Predator drone was found on the laptop of an apprehended Iraqi insurgent.

Ah, but alas, there is good news:

A senior Pentagon official is quoted as saying that although militants were able to view the video, there was no evidence that they were able to jam electronic signals from the aircraft or take control of them.

That would be one knock the U.S. military might not be able to recover from quickly.  And on the reputation fallout probably more the so than the physical damage, although one does shudder at the thought of a renegade Predator drone, on-board missiles and all.

After the first reports broke, some military folk finally came clean:

Senior U.S. military officers working for the Joint Chiefs of Staff discussed the danger of Russia and China intercepting and doctoring video from drone aircraft in 2004, but the Pentagon didn’t begin securing the signals until this year

Well, this is the military.  But don’t worry about the federal government in its domestic undertakings.  You’ve got nothing to fear when it comes to nationalized health care; they promise that it won’t take five years to get you your cancer treatment.

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