American Drones Infected!

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An MQ-9 Reaper lands at Joint Base Balad, Iraq.

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In a statement released on Thursday the Air Force admitted that the computer systems that operate the unmanned drones are infected but that the problem is not as dramatic as the media made it out to be. The Air Force described the problem simply as a “nuisance” and described the type of malware as a “credential stealer.” The Air Force continued by saying that it was not effective on their computers because the bug was designed to infect video games.

“In order to achieve its function, the malware must run on a computer that contains the video game in question. Those games were not on the systems in question,” Andy Roake of Air Force Space Command public affairs said in an e-mail to CNN. “The malware was unable to perform its function, and is just a nuisance that must be removed.” Source: CNN

America’s fleet of super sleek pilotless drones have had their “cockpits” infected with a virus that the government is unsure is benign. The infection hasn’t affected the drones’ ability to fly and flight operations haven’t been interupted but it does track every single keystoke that a pilot makes while piloting the drone from abroad. Nearly all of the flight operations for American drones take place out of Creech Air Force Base in Nevada even though the drones themselves are in Afghanistan or elsewhere. According to Wired the government tried to rid their computers at Creech of the virus but the virus defeated all attempts of removal. Built by General Atomics in San Diego the Predator and Reaper drones have been used extensively in Afghanistan and Pakistan to precisely track and engage enemy combatants with a long track record of success.

“Something is going on, but it has not had any impact on the missions overseas,” said the source, who was not authorized to speak publicly.

The virus was detected nearly two weeks ago however as of yet there have been no confirmed leaks of “classified” information. Security experts are unsure if the keylogger was uploaded purposely or by mistake because pilots are allowed to insert USB drives to upload new maps and transfer movies of their flights. The U.S. military issued a ban on portable discs and drives in an effort to prevent more Bradley Manning’s from stealing classified information.

“We generally do not discuss specific vulnerabilities, threats, or responses to our computer networks, since that helps people looking to exploit or attack our systems to refine their approach,” says Lt. Col. Tadd Sholtis, a spokesman for Air Combat Command, which oversees the drones and all other Air Force tactical aircraft. “We invest a lot in protecting and monitoring our systems to counter threats and ensure security, which includes a comprehensive response to viruses, worms, and other malware we discover.”

While Wired has the story more than covered I am interested to know one thing that was not mentioned in the source article. Instead of looking to steal classified information could the virus and keylogger be used to replicate the technology behind our remote cockpits? I’m sure that technology is classified but it’s not thousands of pages of documents on the nitty gritty aspects of war. Many nations are desperate to develop their own drone technology since the U.S. has so boldly demonstrated its amazing capabilities and it isn’t beyond those without the know how or ambition to try and steal it. As Wired points out the drone fleet is one of the most vulnerable part of our Air Force because no one seems concerned with securing its data transmissions. I hate to say it but the Air Force invited this virus into its systems and now it can’t get rid of it. Shall we take bets on whether or not it was China?

The video below shows a video, without audio, of an MQ-1 Predator strike, aerial view of the Predator and a bit more.

Source: Wired

Author: James

I am the owner and main author of My Bloggity Blog. I started this blog on a whim and it grew faster than I ever imagined. I seriously enjoy debating politics and foreign policy as I'm sure you've noticed but I also enjoy a wide array of other things that I try to include here.

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