Thursday, December 17, 2009

U.S. was Warned of Predator Drone Hacking

Iraqi insurgents have reportedly intercepted live video feeds from the U.S. military's Predator drones using a $25.95 Windows application which allows them to track the pilotless aircraft undetected.

Hackers working with Iraqi militants were able to determine which areas of the country were under surveillance by the U.S. military, the Wall Street Journal reported on Thursday, adding that video feeds from drones in Afghanistan also appear to have been compromised.

When a Predator unmanned aerial vehicle, or UAV, is far from its base, terrain prohibits it from transmitting directly to its operator. Instead, it switches to a satellite link. That means an enterprising hacker can use his own satellite dish, a satellite modem, and a copy of the SkyGrabber Windows utility sold by the Russian company SkySoftware to intercept and display the UAV's transmissions.

Iraqi interest in intercepting U.S. military transmissions is not exactly new. A report prepared for the CIA director after the U.S. invasion and occupation noted that Saddam Hussein assigned a young relative with a master's degree in computer science to intercept transmissions from U.S. satellites. The relative, "Usama," was secretly given office space in the Baghdad Aerospace Research Center, which had access to satellite downlinks.

The 2005 CIA report compiled by special advisor Charles Duelfer quotes Abd al-Tawab Huwaysh, Saddam's minister of industry, as saying he was shown real-time overhead video supposedly of U.S. military installations in Turkey, Kuwait, and Qatar before the invasion. A likely explanation, the report concludes, is that "Usama located and downloaded the unencrypted satellite feed from U.S. military UAVs."

You can read the entire CBS News copyrighted story at click here.