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Computer Virus Hits U.S. Drone Fleet

 
Anonymous Coward
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10/07/2011 02:48 PM
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Computer Virus Hits U.S. Drone Fleet
Source: [link to www.wired.com]


A computer virus has infected the cockpits of America’s Predator and Reaper drones, logging pilots’ every keystroke as they remotely fly missions over Afghanistan and other warzones.

The virus, first detected nearly two weeks ago by the military’s Host-Based Security System, has not prevented pilots at Creech Air Force Base in Nevada from flying their missions overseas. Nor have there been any confirmed incidents of classified information being lost or sent to an outside source. But the virus has resisted multiple efforts to remove it from Creech’s computers, network security specialists say. And the infection underscores the ongoing security risks in what has become the U.S. military’s most important weapons system.

“We keep wiping it off, and it keeps coming back,” says a source familiar with the network infection, one of three that told Danger Room about the virus. “We think it’s benign. But we just don’t know.”

Military network security specialists aren’t sure whether the virus and its so-called “keylogger” payload were introduced intentionally or by accident; it may be a common piece of malware that just happened to make its way into these sensitive networks. The specialists don’t know exactly how far the virus has spread. But they’re sure that the infection has hit both classified and unclassified machines at Creech. That raises the possibility, at least, that secret data may have been captured by the keylogger, and then transmitted over the public internet to someone outside the military chain of command.


Drones have become America’s tool of choice in both its conventional and shadow wars, allowing U.S. forces to attack targets and spy on its foes without risking American lives. Since President Obama assumed office, a fleet of approximately 30 CIA-directed drones have hit targets in Pakistan more than 230 times; all told, these drones have killed more than 2,000 suspected militants and civilians, according to the Washington Post. More than 150 additional Predator and Reaper drones, under U.S. Air Force control, watch over the fighting in Afghanistan and Iraq. American military drones struck 92 times in Libya between mid-April and late August. And late last month, an American drone killed top terrorist Anwar al-Awlaki — part of an escalating unmanned air assault in the Horn of Africa and southern Arabian peninsula.

But despite their widespread use, the drone systems are known to have security flaws. Many Reapers and Predators don’t encrypt the video they transmit to American troops on the ground. In the summer of 2009, U.S. forces discovered “days and days and hours and hours” of the drone footage on the laptops of Iraqi insurgents. A $26 piece of software allowed the militants to capture the video.

The lion’s share of U.S. drone missions are flown by Air Force pilots stationed at Creech, a tiny outpost in the barren Nevada desert, 20 miles north of a state prison and adjacent to a one-story casino. In a nondescript building, down a largely unmarked hallway, is a series of rooms, each with a rack of servers and a “ground control station,” or GCS. There, a drone pilot and a sensor operator sit in their flight suits in front of a series of screens. In the pilot’s hand is the joystick, guiding the drone as it soars above Afghanistan, Iraq, or some other battlefield.

Some of the GCSs are classified secret, and used for conventional warzone surveillance duty. The GCSs handling more exotic operations are top secret. None of the remote cockpits are supposed to be connected to the public internet. Which means they are supposed to be largely immune to viruses and other network security threats.
snarkModerator
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10/07/2011 03:09 PM

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Re: Computer Virus Hits U.S. Drone Fleet
Bump for a pin. This is drudge's headline right now. OMG.
T For Texas, T For Tennessee!


The virtue of courage is a prerequisite for the practice of all other virtues, because otherwise one is virtuous only when virtue has no cost. There are times when something needs to be done, and yet we know that if we step up and do this needful thing, we will pay a heavy personal price. -C.S. Lewis
Anonymous Coward
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10/07/2011 03:10 PM
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Re: Computer Virus Hits U.S. Drone Fleet
wtf
Anonymous Coward
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Belarus
10/07/2011 03:12 PM
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Re: Computer Virus Hits U.S. Drone Fleet
SKYNET SKYNET
The Bad Apple

User ID: 1486659
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10/07/2011 03:13 PM
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Re: Computer Virus Hits U.S. Drone Fleet
What goes around comes around.
for the hour of doom is at hand; neither gold nor treasure can buy a reprieve.
Anonymous Coward
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10/07/2011 03:22 PM
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Re: Computer Virus Hits U.S. Drone Fleet
sounds like a hacker may be getting ready to take control of drones and attack a major target, all it will take is the push of a button to initiate the program and the hidden agenda will be known.
Anonymous Coward
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10/07/2011 04:21 PM
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Re: Computer Virus Hits U.S. Drone Fleet
bump & PIN
Anonymous Coward
User ID: 2709243
United Kingdom
10/07/2011 04:27 PM
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Re: Computer Virus Hits U.S. Drone Fleet
Chinese components you see :) if i were to hide a specific virus, the virus will be built into the hardware. They are looking in the wrong place :)
Resister

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10/07/2011 05:09 PM

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Re: Computer Virus Hits U.S. Drone Fleet
Chinese components you see :) if i were to hide a specific virus, the virus will be built into the hardware. They are looking in the wrong place :)
 Quoting: Anonymous Coward 2709243


Totally plausible. This qute from the article is not a good sign. "We keep wiping it off, and it keeps coming back,” [link to www.wired.com]

damned
"God forbid we should ever be 20 years without such a rebellion. The people cannot be all, & always, well informed... If they remain quiet under such misconceptions it is a lethargy, the forerunner of death to the public liberty... Let them take arms... What signify a few lives lost in a century or two? The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots & tyrants. " - Thomas Jefferson in 1787
PastItAll

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10/07/2011 05:11 PM
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Re: Computer Virus Hits U.S. Drone Fleet
Haha Nice!
Anonymous Coward
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10/07/2011 05:13 PM
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Re: Computer Virus Hits U.S. Drone Fleet
SKYNET SKYNET
 Quoting: Anonymous Coward 2686650







GLP