Virus hits US drone fleet: report

Oct 09, 2011
A computer virus has hit the US Predator and Reaper drone fleet that Washington deploys to hunt down militants (AFP/Getty Images/File, Gary Williams)

A computer virus has hit the US Predator and Reaper drone fleet that Washington deploys to hunt down militants, logging the keystrokes of pilots remotely flying missions, Wired magazine reported.

The virus was first detected about two weeks ago by the military's Host-Based Security System, but it had not halted missions flown remotely over Afghanistan and other warzones from Nevada's Creech Air Force Base, Wired said Friday.

No was believed to have been lost or sent outside the network, though the resilient virus resisted several attempts to remove it.

"We keep wiping it off, and it keeps coming back," a source familiar with the network infection told the US magazine. "We think it's benign. But we just don't know."

security specialists said it remained unclear whether the virus was intentional and how far it had spread, but they were certain it had infected Creech's classified and unclassified machines. Secret data may thus have leaked out and reached someone outside military officials.

The US military does not hide its own drone flights in Libya or the war in Afghanistan, in contrast to the CIA's covert missions to take out Al-Qaeda extremists in Pakistan, Yemen and elsewhere. The drones have become a critical weapon of choice for the United States in fighting militants abroad.

In Pakistan alone, around 30 drone strikes have been reported since elite US forces killed Al-Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden on May 2 near the country's main military academy in Abbottabad, close to the capital.

The virus is believed to have spread at Creech through removable hard drives used to load map updates and transfer mission videos from one computer to another, Wired said. units at other bases around the world have now been told to stop using them.

"It's getting a lot of attention," the source told Wired. "But no one's panicking. Yet."

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User comments : 18

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gwrede
4.2 / 5 (6) Oct 09, 2011
I can't make up my mind whether to cry or laugh.

The forensic guys will have a hard time figuring out what happened after a drone hits the White House. And who's responsible.
socean
4.7 / 5 (7) Oct 09, 2011
A virus renders a multi-million dollar weapon useless, even dangerous, and gathers intelligence about its actual use.

Are we supposed to believe this can never happen again?

Warfare is mainly digital now it seems. Weaponry has become so infused with technology, there is no way to avoid some risk of infection and/or malfunction.

If an unknown enemy succeeds in unleashing swarms of our own drones on us, what will we do? Invade another country?
hush1
2.7 / 5 (3) Oct 09, 2011
This relieves psychological burdens* on pilots.
*Accountability/Responsibility

And adversaries are led to believe there is a lull.
Pretty clever.
Pretty stupid.

Proof the existence of the virus - code please.
You can't? Security reasons?

You know what happens to your drone program if you pull this again?
malapropism
5 / 5 (6) Oct 09, 2011
Please tell me that the US military haven't used Windows for their command and control OS for use with these weapons?
thewhitebear
not rated yet Oct 09, 2011
the future of warfare as depicted in Ghost in the Shell is here. Creepy.
bottomlesssoul
3 / 5 (2) Oct 09, 2011
These things are inevitable when you play games like this, and I can't stand the whining that comes with it.
Jayded
not rated yet Oct 10, 2011
Its the Chinese
antonima
3 / 5 (2) Oct 10, 2011
in the future there will be a movement to go back to doing things manually for this reason or another
Humpty
Oct 10, 2011
This comment has been removed by a moderator.
antonima
not rated yet Oct 10, 2011
FUnny how posts get eaten on this thread..
hush1
1 / 5 (1) Oct 10, 2011
in the future there will be a movement to go back to doing things manually for this reason or another - antonima


This relieves psychological burdens* on pilots. - Hush


The healthiest guilt or conscious comes from masturbation not drones.
plasticpower
4.7 / 5 (3) Oct 10, 2011
Please tell me that the US military haven't used Windows for their command and control OS for use with these weapons?


Ahh you beat me to it! Gives a whole new meaning to the words "blue screen of DEATH"
lazywheelman
4 / 5 (1) Oct 10, 2011
Can anyone say SKYNET
nonimal
not rated yet Oct 10, 2011
Please tell me that the US military haven't used Windows for their command and control OS for use with these weapons?


for those subsystems they aren't. however, for regular work msft is still deployed.
Egnite
3.5 / 5 (2) Oct 10, 2011
"We think it's benign. But we just don't know."


So AVG has told you it's ok? If I were the military I'd be worried that some benign virus is actually data collecting or waiting for a time to strike. Either way I wouldn't be assuming everything is fine when the hijacking of deadly drones is a possible outcome :-O
visual
5 / 5 (2) Oct 10, 2011
This is likely just an average malware/keylogger, probably unable to leak out any of the recorded info without the presence of an internet connection. So "we think it's benign" might be quite accurate.

The fact that they got infected in the first place doesn't speak good about their security, but I guess it can be understandable to some extent. Shit happens. Learn from the mistakes, or at least pretend to, promise to not let it happen again, fire those responsible and hire new ones to have their go at it, the usual.

But they should have found out everything about the infection and what it does, how to remove it and how to prevent it from reappearing by now. Coming out with such a pathetic statement as "We keep wiping it off, and it keeps coming back. We think it's benign. But we just don't know." is very discouraging, no matter how accurate the "benign" part might be in this particular case.
TehDog
not rated yet Oct 10, 2011
There is speculation that this was actually part of the DoD's software.
http://techzwn.co...analyst/
Mabus
1 / 5 (3) Oct 10, 2011
Please tell me that the US military haven't used Windows for their command and control OS for use with these weapons?

Windows Vista maybe?
NotAsleep
not rated yet Oct 11, 2011
The DoD got serious when it discovered USB plug and play drives were perfectly capable of stealing information. They've gone to extraordinary lengths to prevent unintended data from reaching DoD computers.

It's impossible, though, to prevent a properly educated insider from inserting a program