It is said that anything that can be hacked, will be hacked, and that pretty much anything can be hacked. In this case, the Wall Street Journal
was the first to report the sad tale. It reported on Thursday that Iranian-backed insurgents in Iraq are using a software package, SkyGrabber, one that costs a mere $25.95, to download imagery from the much used Predator drones.
Apparently, the reason SkyGrabber works on what one would think is a secure transmission is because the over-the-air transmission can't, quite obviously, be all that secure unless it is encrypted. Incredibly, it is not. Or at least, was not, as the U.S. is working on the issue, and have been for some time.
In fact, the "hacking" discovery was made late in 2008 when U.S. forces captured a Shiite militant whose laptop contained files of intercepted drone video feeds. In July of this year, U.S. military forces found other drone video feeds on more militant laptops. This has led some U.S. officials to believe that militant groups, believed to be trained and funded by Iran, were routinely intercepting Predator drone video feeds.
Worse, the U.S. government has known about the issue with the lack of encryption since the U.S. campaign in Bosnia in the 1990s, according to both current and former officials. However, the Pentagon "assumed" insurgents wouldn't be aware of how to exploit it, they added.
This shows that while many feel that insurgents are simply non-technical guerrillas, that is no longer the case. These local adversaries are definitely not working out of the Stone Age.
While the video feeds were compromised, officials were quick to point out that the actual Predator drones themselves were not. In other words, insurgents could view the video feed, but they could not hack into the drones themselves and control them. That is still something you might see in a B-sci-fi movie.SkyGrabber is from a Russian company named SkySoftware. Andrew Solonikov, one of the software's developers, told the WSJ that he was unaware of its military potential. He said "It was developed to intercept music, photos, video, programs and other content that other users download from the Internet -- no military data or other commercial data, only free legal content."