By Tuan Nguyen
Posting in Design
A computer virus was discovered recording sensitive information being sent to military attack drones.
A couple weeks ago, a computer virus was discovered recording sensitive information being sent to military attack drones, an incident that will almost certainly lead to heightened concerns over the use of unmanned weapons in the war against terror.
Citing anonymous sources, Wired.com reported that the keylogging malware was detected inside the operating cockpits used to send commands to the Predator and Reaper drones at Creech Air Force Base in Nevada. For military officials, the good news thus far is that the security breach hasn't disrupted current reconnaissance and enemy strike operations in the Afghanistan, Pakistan or Libya. The report also states that there hasn't been any confirmed leaks of secret information -- at least not yet.
However, the officials are certain the virus has spread to both classified and unclassified computers. The biggest concern is that classified data captured by the program may have been sent to someone outside the base. No one knows exactly how the virus infected the system, though some suspect it was transmitted through the use of removable hard drives.
The latest setback is especially troubling for the U.S. military considering the instrumental role that Unmanned Aerial vehicles (UAV) have played in turning the tide against insurgents and operatives who run terror networks overseas. Recently, the drones have garnered widespread media attention for successfully targeting some high profile terrorist such as second ranking Al-Qaeda member Atiyah Abd al-Rahman and their American-born operations chief Anwar al-Awlaki. In all, the robotic assassins have taken out more than 2,000 suspected threats, according to the Washington Post.
As computer networks have increasingly taken over as the operational interface for handling conflicts, the ability to wage and defend against of cyberwarfare will also become imperative. In 2009, a mysterious malware program named Stuxnet was reported to have damaged the machinery at Iran's uranium enrichment facilities. The origins of the super-virus are unknown, though experts suspect that it was the creation of a government agency and was developed specifically to sabotage Iran's nuclear program. And no doubt some are worried that the underlying technologies that enable the flying robots to carry out their missions can be compromised in a similar fashion.
The U.S. military is very much aware of the threat. Researchers at the U.S. military’s Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, or DARPA, have cybersecurity projects underway that they hope would address such vulnerabilities. They've recruited the insights of security experts and even infectious disease biologists to help develop a program called the Clean-slate Design of Resilient, Adaptive, Secure Hosts, or CRASH, which would not only protect computers from viruses but also enable them to recover and repair themselves the same way the human immune system fends off the flu or chicken pox.
- To learn more, read: In cybercrime war, military projects can be game changers
But as for the situation at hand, computer technicians reportedly have their hands full trying to scrub the virus from the drone systems. Despite attempts to remove the virus by following instructions posted on the Kaspersky website, the virus continues to infiltrate internal computers. The technicians later resorted to running a program called BCWipe to erase the internal hard drives, according to the report.
“It’s getting a lot of attention,” the source told Wired.com. “But no one’s panicking. Yet.”
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Oct 10, 2011
After reading about damaged "machinery at Iran???s uranium enrichment facilities" the only possible suspect for your drones security breach would make me have to point the finger at Israel. And who can blame them for your own security lapses and negligence. With ground base tracking intelligence technology or spy satellites intercepting command and control directives to your drones, somebody, somewhere must be feeling like a kid in a candy shop.
I heard somewhere that the "infection" may be related to some internal software the DOD uses to monitor their own networks.
Weapons control systems used to be stand alone systems so they could not be infected with an outside virus.
Doesn't a key logging virus eventually "call home"? If the perpetrators of the virus expect to gain anything from the infection, at some point the virus will try to send information to its source, and that's how you catch the miscreants responsible.
You have a great point riverat1. I'll bet their own anti malware software caught it because the left hand was not telling the right hand they were snooping.