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The people our troops are battling in Afghanistan and Pakistan might be diabolical fanatics willing to use such crude terrorist tactics as suicide bombers – but the one thing we’ve got that they can’t match is the world’s most sophisticated military technology. Right?
Well, right – our military-industrial complex is a high-tech wonder, and the primitive tribal forces we’re now confronting in Afghanistan, for example, have nothing like it. Take, drones. These pilotless, remote-controlled, missile-firing, killing machines have become America’s weapon of choice against the Taliban. Mounted with computerized video cameras that guide the long-distance, unmanned flights, drones cost about $12 million each, but they’re devastatingly effective. The enemy doesn’t even know they’re targeted until – surprise! – the missiles explode on them.
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At least, that’s what the Pentagon assumed. However, we now learn that the enemy has been hacking into our drones’ electronic systems, allowing them to intercept the live video feeds. Thus, they learn which houses, camps, roads, or other sites are being targeted, potentially letting them escape before the missiles strike. Adding insult to injury, the enemies are able to monitor our flights of the $12-million sophisticated drones with a bit of simple software called Skygrabber, which is meant for downloading music, photos, and other free materials from the Internet. Skygrabber is readily available on websites for only $24.95.
It turns out that the Pentagon has known since the Bosnian battles in the 1990s that drones have this particular vulnerability – but officials assumed that the people we’re fighting wouldn’t be sharp enough to figure it out. That’s a very dangerous assumption it turns out. And it’s an odd assumption, teenagers have been able to hack into the military’s own massive and heavily-secured computers inside the Pentagon itself.
“Insurgents Hack U.S. Drones,” www.wsj.com, December 17, 2009.