According to the Wall Street Journal, the Iraqi resistance has acquired a Russian software programme, available for $25.99 on the internet, through which they can intercept live video feeds from U.S. Predator drones [1].

This situation once again illustrates that it is possible to counter sophisticated U.S. military technologies with asymmetrical means, comments the WSJ.

The U.S. military discovered the leak when they arrested a Shiite militant whose laptop contained the U.S. drone video feeds. A software programme, SkyGrabber, from Russian company SkySoftware had been used to intercept the feeds.

Lt. Gen. David Deptula, who oversees the Air Force’s unmanned aviation programe, acknowledged the problem and promised to solve it by upgrading the encryption system.

Meanwhile, SkyGrabber developer Andrei Solonikov told the newspaper that the software had been designed for civilian, and not military, use. He said he was unaware of how it was being exploited by the Iraqi resistance. With SkyGrabber, any internet user with a satellite dish can intercept civilian communications satellite contents (music, videos, etc.), hack them and dowload them on his PC.

This situation gave rise to a discussion among Joint Chiefs of Staff about the danger that Russia and China could also intercept and manipulate the drone feeds. As it turns out, not only are the drone feeds not secured, but neither is the live video footage transmitted by helicopters and planes, even in a combat situation. In conclusion, it is possible to intercept all the contents (telephone lines, internet, etc.) transiting through civilian communications satellites without resorting to sophisticated NSA technology.


[1] Insurgents Hack U.S. Drones and Officers Warned of Flaw in U.S. Drones in 2004, by Yochi J. Dreazen, August Cole and Siobhan Gorman, Wall Street Journal, 17 and 18 December 2009.