So Much For National Security Secrets

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How can a Nation claim to have national security and secrets when anyone in any country with the equivalent of $26 in any currency can pull in signals informing them of every finger touch and footstep of the US military who in turn control uber millions of dollars in lethal weapons and killing machines?

What is it that opens that signal door? Apparently a virus, worse a virus that once wiped out regenerates itself. Whether it gives new birth to its code or a fresh insert is being ported in, the problem doesn’t change.

The virus, apparently found in U.S. Reaper drones and Predator drones actually logs keystrokes as they type them, when they conduct missions over Iraq and Afghanistan. Even more troublesome this virus now affects flights over additional war zones.

According to reports, the military “Host-Based Security System” detected the suspect activity about three weeks ago.

The military has not reported the loss of any classified information, not that we would expect them to confirm it anyway. So with no reported leak of data, the pilots who control the drones at Creech Air Force Base are continuing their missions abroad from a location in Nevada.

Apparently network security teams have tried to remove the virus more than once, but like many viruses of this type, it sneaks back in replicating itself from other places on the network. This virus infection trumpets loud and clear the risk to US security, that such attacks, intentional or not, can get into a weapons system.

As worrying as that might be, another worry is that Wired Magazine’s “Danger Room” was told about the infection by not one, but three different people. One of those sources told them “We keep wiping it off, and it keeps coming back.” He also said they think it is benign – but there is no way to tell.

Adding to the confusion over this infiltration:

  • The Military doesn’t know if the virus and the “keylogger” it carried was introduced intentionally
  • The virus and keylogger could both be common malware
  • The entry to the sensitive networks may have been accidental
  • The entry may have been from public to classified networks
  • They don’t know how widely the virus has spread

    What they do know is that the virus and keylogger have been found on classified and unclassified machines.

    It doesn’t take a genius to deduce, given the above, that there is at least a possibility that sensitive data may have been acquired by the logger, routed from classified to unclassified machines and thence to someone outside the military, over the internet.

    predator drone
    MQ1 Predator unmanned aircraft

    According to The Long War Journal, a site that recently compiled data on US drone strikes in Pakistan, since 2008, when President Obama became President, there have been 262 strikes. Prior to that, there was one before 2004, one in 2004, another in 2005, three in 2006 and five in 2007.

    The site also tracks the number killed in those drone attacks in Pakistan, showing 138 civilians and 2,108 leaders and operatives of extremist groups, up until the date of publication of the story.

    The U.S. Air Force also uses Reaper and Predator drones to monitor operations in Afghanistan and Iraq.

    US drones were also used in Libya, against Gaddhafi and his loyalists, both for surveillance and attacks. At least one drone was deployed to locate and kill Anwar al-Awlaki, the US-born terrorist in Yemen, and his som was killed by another drone attack a few weeks later.

    Security flaws have previously been confirmed in drone systems. Iraqi insurgents were found to have many hours of drone surveillance video, back in 2009. Apparently the video was transmitted from drones, without encryption, making it available to anyone with the inexpensive equipment needed to acquire, store and view it.

    Thanks to recent stories, we know that the drone pilots are hiding in plain sight, amongst us, near, of all places, a Nevada casino. At least they are in the US, so they are safe from cercion – or are they? It seems that the US borders are wide open and there are around 40 million illegal immigrants all over the US. Not all of them are “good hearted” Mexicans looking to improve their lot and send US dollars back to Mexico.

    Apparently, the Pentagon is still disinfecting machines, three years after security was breached by swapping discs and drives between public and classified machines. In that incident, thousands of machines were infected with a worm known as agent.btz.

    While it has been said that external drives and devices are now restricted throughout the military, drone crews may still use removable hard drives for map updates and to transfer mission videos between machines, leaving them open to such a security breach.

    Obviously, the military will not talk about specific issues, for fear of confirming or denying something that could help attackers. This much was attributed to Lt. Col. Tadd Sholtis, an Air Combat Command spokesman, who said, “We generally do not discuss specific vulnerabilities, threats, or responses to our computer networks, since that helps people looking to exploit or attack our systems to refine their approach.”

    Air Combat Command oversees Air Force tactical aircraft, including the drones.

    Making us realize this is not the first such incident, Wired quoted Lt. Col. Sholtis “We invest a lot in protecting and monitoring our systems to counter threats and ensure security, which includes a comprehensive response to viruses, worms, and other malware we discover.”

    NewsBlaze created this UAV video, when our friend Bob Calvert, at TalkingWithheroes.com went to Iraq in 2006.

  • Claudia Strasbaugh was a freelance writer who founded Scripps Ranch/Mira Mesa Writer’s Guild, was head writer for the weekly TV show “Kill ‘EM With Comedy”, plus California Bureau Chief for National Lotto World Magazine. Claudia also ran a non profit called Dinner On A Dollar. Sadly, Claudia passed away in 2015, but we are pleased to display her writing works.