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Insurgents Hack Predator Drones With Cheap Software

Posted on Dec 17, 2009
Original: U.S. Air Force / Master Sgt. Scott Reed

The $4.5 million Predator unmanned aerial vehicle and its at least $10 million successor are considered the future of America’s Air Force and a big part of the president’s escalation in Afghanistan. Insurgents in Iraq (and probably Afghanistan) were able to track the planes and intercept video feeds using $26 software available on the Internet.

That revelation comes from a Wall Street Journal report that says the Pentagon has known about the Predator’s vulnerabilities since the 1990s but assumed the local savages (not their words) wouldn’t be able to figure it out. The problem, you see, is that no one bothered to encrypt the drone’s video feed from the aircraft to its ground-based operator.

This isn’t the first knock against the Predator. The New York Times reported in March that more than a third of the drones had crashed. They also have a tendency to kill civilians. Scott Ritter has argued convincingly against the drones’ use, although they appear to be central to the new approach in Afghanistan. Better to kill civilians, perhaps, than Americans, whose deaths could sour public opinion even more.  —PZS

Wall Street Journal:

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.

Senior defense and intelligence officials said Iranian-backed insurgents intercepted the video feeds by taking advantage of an unprotected communications link in some of the remotely flown planes’ systems. Shiite fighters in Iraq used software programs such as SkyGrabber—available for as little as $25.95 on the Internet—to regularly capture drone video feeds, according to a person familiar with reports on the matter.

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Elsewhere: Engadget, CNET, BBC

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drbhelthi's avatar

By drbhelthi, September 22, 2010 at 1:04 am Link to this comment

The timeliness of this article, almost ten months
old, is remarkable. 

Since the “drones” are the size of an average USAF
fighter-jet, they kill and maim all live beings in
the area in which they crash, regardless of
nationality. Of course, if their rocket-load is
still aboard and explodes upon impact, many times
more damage is done.

The wisdom of Mr. Scott Ritter is very accurate, is
thus suppressed by the NAZI-types who make the
decisions. (and too many American Patriots who are
subject to the supervision of the NAZI-types)

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drbhelthi's avatar

By drbhelthi, September 22, 2010 at 12:30 am Link to this comment

Agreed, DBM. The criticism in your post is abnormal and incredibly superficial, reflecting wholesale ignorance in this area.

As far as “delusion and paranoia” are concerned, your post that included the following: “Does this make Reno a legitimate military target? It’s not a pleasant line of thinking ... the use of drones (let alone the whole concept of assassination) is a very slippery moral slope”,
is less shallow, the underlying ideation of which requires consideration - - .

Reno is a possible target for the NAZI-offspring-terrorists that pulled off 9-11 and other less drastic hoaxes, such as the Timothy McVeigh bombing hoax.  The names of four of the CIA operatives involved in the McVeigh hoax have been repeatedly published on the internet. (for those who care to become informed)

You can bring yourself up-to-date by reading the “Chronicles of Chip Tatum,” the “Chronicles of Ted Gunderson,” and reviewing the expose´ of FBI fraud provided by Sibel Edmunds.  The book, “The Franklin Cover-Up” provides perhaps more nitty-gritty detail than you care to become acquainted with.

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By Atlantic Global, September 21, 2010 at 5:23 pm Link to this comment

Hmm! With so much good in the world it is almost unbelievable that there is equally such evil! When I read about all the goodwill and development for the betterment of mankind it leaves this type of article in its wake. I, like everything else, must use a balanced approach and accept that this is the modern world and like history evil and good go hand in hand as without it we would not have the other.

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By TiffanyG44, June 9, 2010 at 6:46 am Link to this comment

Hackers are extremely dangerous nowadays. Everybody is talking about terrorists all around the world lately. I am sure that soon such phrase as “Internet terrorism” will be used quite often. Now everything is constructed using computers and internet: banks, hospitals and so on. So our information is virtual in many places. That’s why there is much risk that our private information will be stolen and so on. Like these Predators. If there would be a world war at the moment, just imagine how dangerous hackers would be. One cheap vk downloader downloaded from somewhere can be a real threat to various secret organizations. However this is the world where we are living now and that’s the price that you have to pay for using modern technologies. Thanks for the great article by the way. It iwas really interesting to read it.

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By alangreen74, December 19, 2009 at 8:55 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

This is what you get for privatizing and selling away out nation’s top secrets…  soon they’ll be able to control our tomahawk missiles. Want to know how to prepare?

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By Anarcissie, December 18, 2009 at 8:02 am Link to this comment

It is of course only a matter of time before drones are either hacked or imitated and used against their originators.  A drone is an ideal terrorists’ weapon.  In assymmetrical warfare, the larger, more powerful party is going to be far more vulnerable than dispersed guerrillas or terrorists to this sort of weapon because of the innumerable targets the larger party offers.  Drones may well become a feature of Americans’ future in a way they do not now expect.

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By DBM, December 18, 2009 at 4:59 am Link to this comment

Hmmm drbhelthi ...

I don’t normally criticise people who post on these forums.  Everyone deserves a voice.

Let me just say though that just because someone is delusionary and paranoid doesn’t mean they’re not really out to get you!

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By drbhelthi, December 18, 2009 at 1:43 am Link to this comment

Is the “government” of the USA not already one big, bad joke?

The “US gov” has become a fraud, and is now defrauding the governments of the remainder of the world, via terrorism conducted by the CIA, MOSSAD, Ex - (Blackwater) and very very sadly, the US military.  The WHO and CDC and NIH are misused to engender fear among the US and world populace, habituating world folk to being forcibly injected with falsified “flu vaccines”.  This prepares them for the bigger needle with the computer chip, in 2010 - - ?

Dont forget the ILLUMINAZI brotherhood that control the “Federal Reserve,” that has bankrupted most governments of the world.  From which “tribe” does this group stem ?  The one responsible for attacks on the USS Liberty, the USS Cole and unmentioned others?  The one that scapegoats all antagonists, while mouthing democracy, and “claiming” six million murdered by the NAZI machine?  Marvelous PR, AIPAC.  You´ve really put a big one over on the USA and the world.  Let us turn over the six million figure to Russian and Chinese statisticians to verify.  Westerners, especially “Brits & Americans manipulated by AIPAC” are not trustworthy.

It is genuinely difficult for me to believe.  Ten million US dollars for one radio-controlled, model airplane. A model-airplane loaded with high-tec explosives and guided by high-tec electronics.  A model-airplane misused to genocide residents of an oil-rich, moslem country in the “Near East”, that the ILLUMINAZI oil empirists of the USA are misusing the US military to “conquest”.  At the expense of US citizenry, while the ILLUMINAZI brotherhood “cook the books” of the “U.S.” Federal Reserve,  plus the state treasury books of most other nations?  Under the guise of “stabilizing a world currency”? 

What happened to the originally-noble, citizenry of the USofA ?  If the earth and humans are still present in 2055, historians will be explaining how the government of the USA, the ILLUMINAZI brotherhood, spread hate and murder, murdered untold millions of people, almost destroyed the vegetation of the earth, in conquest of oil reserves, traceable to israeli lineage.  Meanwhile, massive, world-wide efforts will have been carried out, gathering up and storing the thousands of tons of depleted-uranium-garbage, “Rounds” fired by the USA military, 1975-2010.  The millions of resultant deaths, unnatural births and mal-formed and afflicted humans will have been tabulated and recognized, world-wide.  The ILLUMINAZI will have self-destroyed, and less-greedy dictatorships will have overtaken control of the various “principalities” on earth.

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By geronimo, December 17, 2009 at 4:17 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

The best thing that can happen with these flying killing machines called drones is that the freedom fighters in Afghanistan and Iraq find a way to bring them down with their $26.00 software, resulting in our armed forces and the CIA being embarrassed to the extent that they become the butt of jokes and experience a decline in popularity, such that there funding requests are met with derisement, the fallout from which is a huge cut in the military’s budget.  Impossible?  Well that’s what happened 27 years ago in Argentina after its then fascist military dictators, having decided that there was nothing like a little war to boost their sagging image, made war on Great Britain over the Falkland Islands.  Except it didn’t turn out the way they thought it would, as Argentina was resoundingly defeated, after which, guess what?  That’s right, the popularity of the fascist military junta that was running the country took a nosedive from which the military not only has yet to recover, several of its generals) ended up in the hoosegaw.  Meanwhile democracy was restored and remains vibrant to this day.  The lesson here is that when it comes to deflating the military, there’s nothing more effective than a decisive defeat on the battlefield.  What’s especially appealing about this anti-drone effort by Afghan & Iraqi freedom fighters is that their bringing these drones down will be a bloodless endeavor, enabling us to cheer them on without having to worry about lives being lost (contrariwise, lives will be saved).  And so, freedom fighters,  down the drowns, down the drones, as fast as you can,

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By ardee, December 17, 2009 at 3:34 pm Link to this comment

Blackspeare, December 17 at 7:07 pm #

The sophistication and advancement of drone warfare has certainly made war more appealing.  When you can conduct a war with limited casualties you can go on forever——almost like playing a board game.

I assume an oversight on your part as the casualties are only limited on our side, Afghanis die ......or do you imply that their deaths do not count? I certainly hope you do not.

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By NorCalNative, December 17, 2009 at 3:22 pm Link to this comment

@ FRTohus, that’s a nice little collection of quotes you listed. 

Scott Ritter recently wrote on this site (12/10/09) about the predator drones.  I think it’s a must-read for anyone interested in this issue.

From that article: “All pretense of either Afghani or Pakistani sovereignty disappears when the drones take to the air.”

Mr. Ritter also calls the drones “force-enhancers” for the Taliban, and goes so far as to call CENTCOM its own virtual Nation-State.

Creating force-enhancers FOR THE ENEMY by our use of technology is counter-productive to our efforts. That the influence of the military industrial congressional complex has advanced to become its own VIRTUAL NATION-STATE has huge implications for our Republic.

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By DBM, December 17, 2009 at 3:17 pm Link to this comment

There seems to be a 1 step “degree of separation” between the logic that drone attacks which kill civilians are a result of those nefarious enemies “hiding in the midst of civilian populations” and the observation that the “pilots” of these drones live and work in Nevada (amongst other places in the U.S.). 

Does this make Reno a legitimate military target?  It’s not a pleasant line of thinking ... the use of drones (let alone the whole concept of assassination) is a very slippery moral slope.

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Blackspeare's avatar

By Blackspeare, December 17, 2009 at 2:07 pm Link to this comment

The sophistication and advancement of drone warfare has certainly made war more appealing.  When you can conduct a war with limited casualties you can go on forever——almost like playing a board game.

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By skulz fontaine, December 17, 2009 at 12:51 pm Link to this comment

Yeah and the dang insurgents work for Iran. So the Wall Street Journal article
maintains. $26 bucks for the software? That sure seems cheaper than $10 million
dollars for the lousy drone. The blind arrogance of our ‘Imperial’ military.

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By jean Gerard, December 17, 2009 at 12:29 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

It is amazing to me how these military people simply do not recognize the
element of cowardice inherent in the use of drones.  They seem to be
completely unconscious of the obvious fact that any war that even pretends to
be “just” would require that both sides be involved in risk of life at
approximately equal rates—that is, brigade against brigade, regiment against
regiment, tank against tank.

Of course we have never consciously recognized that this kind of equity went
out with the a-bomb, and perhaps that’s the source of a kind of deliberate
unconsciousness raised to the nth level to allow for programming a weapon in
a bunker in Colorado that will fly to the other side of the world and kill human
beings with a hi-tech machine they haven’t got, and without risking a single
life on “our” side.  In fact, with a perfectly straight face “our side” can
congratulate itself on the fact that the risk and the losses are all on “their

If “they” had only bows and arrows, and we had guns—ah, yes!  but we’ve
been through that scenario and never questioned it.  And what about the
smallpox germs?  So why am I surprised? 

Not as surprised as I am disgusted.  “Just Wars” my eye!

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By FRTothus, December 17, 2009 at 11:57 am Link to this comment

The continued use of the term “insurgents” is innaccurate but useful to empire because it paints those who object to US imperialism and military invasion as being somehow in the wrong, as if one is not allowed to defend themselves from US attack, invasion, and occupation.  The term “insurgents” implies that there is a legitimate authority in place against which a rebellion is occurring, but this is not at all the case.  “Leadership” installed by an occupying power has no legitimacy whatsoever, and those who fight and resist it do themselves and their country great honor. 

“The United States has no tradition of subordinating itself to international treaty-based law, and it has no interest in a world order in which military force becomes operational only as a last resort.”
(Peter Gowan)

“American capitalism, based as it is on exploitation of the poor, with its fundamental motivation in personal greed, simply cannot survive without force.”
(Philip Agee, CIA Diary)

“The men and women who enlist in this country’s military [should] be told the truth that they are not protecting the United States, they are and always have been protecting corporate interests.”
(Chante Wolf)

“What good fortune for governments that the people do not think.”
(Adolf Hitler)

“The American social infrastructure deteriorates as the Pentagon’s sphere of control widens. Today we find an inverse relationship between growth of the U.S. empire and various measures of domestic well-being.”
(Carl Boggs)

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