This is a mind-boggling breach of security:
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.
U.S. officials say there is no evidence that militants were able to take control of the drones or otherwise interfere with their flights. Still, the intercepts could give America’s enemies battlefield advantages by removing the element of surprise from certain missions and making it easier for insurgents to determine which roads and buildings are under U.S. surveillance.
And it’s not as if this is some new, unexpected development; the Pentagon has known of this problem since the 1990s, but did nothing about it because they didn’t think the local yo-yos were smart enough to find out about it.
Pardon me, but, um… WTF??
Maybe Abdul in a cave wouldn’t figure it out, but what about their patrons in Iran (who’ve shown themselves to be pretty creative), or their patrons in Moscow and Beijing? Do we really have such stupid and arrogant schmucks in military who thought that no rival could discover this and then pass on the information? Really?
Excuse me while I go find the nearest brick wall to bang my head against.
Threat Matrix gives us the cheery news that the problem isn’t just affecting Iraq, but Afghanistan and Pakistan, as well. And not just our drone feeds, but all air-to-ground transmissions. They outline a worst-case scenario:
…our rivals such as Russia and China, our adversaries such as Iran, al Qaeda, Hezbollah, the Taliban, etc., and our erstwhile allies such as Pakistan have been monitoring our feeds for years, and thus have learned plenty about how the US plans and conducts attacks, as well as the capabilities and limitations of the weapons and observation platforms. The DoD officials downplayed the leaked information and said no US troops were harmed due to the breach. That may be true today, but may not be the case in future conflicts.
The following is purely speculation on my part. Don’t be surprised if you read a story in the next few days or weeks that elements within Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence agency has been monitoring US Predator and Reaper feeds, and relaying targeting information to al Qaeda and Taliban leaders. I have heard far too many stories about how senior al Qaeda and Taliban leaders miraculously avoided attacks and left the target sites just minutes before the strikes. The officials repeatedly told me that they believed the anti-US elements in the ISI would tip off the terrorist commanders before the strikes.
This news isn’t just disturbing: that we knew about it for years and did nothing to fix it tells of a nauseating level of incompetence. Several heads need to roll, and then whatever money it takes to fix the problem needs to be spent now. This is just as bad as having a mole in the planning rooms; the repercussions of what our potential and actual enemies may have learned about how we operate could be felt for years from now.
Seriously, why weren’t these transmissions encrypted? Surely there weren’t insuperable obstacles to that.
I’ve often said that no one can beat us if we don’t beat ourselves, and it’s at moments like this I think we’re trying to prove it.
LINKS: More at Hot Air.