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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Comment by Peter Meister on December 17, 2009 at 11:26am
Doesn't shock me at all. Skygrabber has been around forever, as well langrabber. I am shocked that they are not encrypting the connection, but knowing our DoD it doesn't shock me at all. Funny thing, this exact principal is how our Gov't monitors worldwide data transmission from Ft. Huachuca for project Echelon.

Comment by Rory Paul on December 17, 2009 at 11:45am
Just lucky Iraqi insurgents are not the IRA...yet
Comment by Jacob Dickinson on December 17, 2009 at 1:23pm
I wonder at what level this decision (to not encrypt) was actually made. Surely there must have been more than a few engineers and managers to whom an unencrypted video feed sounded like a bad idea...I wonder who in the end actually decided it was ok.
Comment by Patrick Egan on December 17, 2009 at 1:25pm
It may also have to do with bandwidth issues.
Comment by Xander on December 17, 2009 at 3:56pm
Bleh...and there's no easy fix cause it's all decade old proprietary tech. Pretty pathetic really. I'd think there'd be some reg that all military communications need to be encrypted.
Comment by PeteD on December 17, 2009 at 3:56pm
what the? I find it inconceivable that the US dosen't fully encrypt their UAV datalinks.

Comment by Morli on December 17, 2009 at 4:16pm
Hi Paul, Smart people in this business( security audits/ethical pen testing) don't disclose the exploits and so do the smart hackers( don't want the doors closed ;) ), it is only kids who do the talking and boost their doings :)).
I bet the end users never knew( weak policies) that the feed was un encrypted and manufacturers don't always advertise their weak points. Also I bet Iranians or who ever were sniffing the air did not find it by accident , it is just habit of good hunter. It would be part of duties of non advertised Gov Comms dept guys listening/scanning on the discrete freqs.My 2 cents.
Comment by DougB on December 17, 2009 at 4:47pm
Is it possible that they didn't encrypt it on purpose. It seems so inconceivable that they wouldn't encrypt the video stream that they may have at certain times un-encrypted it on one or two drones for some strategic reason. Just a thought.
Comment by Ty on December 17, 2009 at 4:54pm
Never think your enemy is a fool. He'll surprise you in the worst possible way.

Seriously folks, think about the "State of the Art". The "uber-UAV" is wandering around without encrypted links (hopefully the control links are protected...)
This field is incredibly young, the potential for a bunch of guys, working out of their garage (Hey, that's you all!) to innovate is incredible.
All of a sudden, a Predator drone doesn't seem that technologically complex.

The flip side of this (as innovators) do we have a duty to encrypt certain parts of our transmissions? Particularly in light of the (potential) FAA re-evaluation of UAV guidelines?

Comment by Morli on December 17, 2009 at 5:04pm
:) , this news just made it to BBC world news( sat TV) and I saw it just few minutes back. It probably will get repeated again later in the same news.


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