U.S. Air Force Predator firing a deadly Hellfire Missile
U.S. Air Force Predator Crew
Exclusive: Computer Virus Hits U.S. Drone Fleet
By Noah Shachtman October 7, 2011 | 1:11 pm | Categories: Drones
A computer virus has infected the cockpits of America’s Predator and Reaper drones, logging pilots’ every keystroke as they remotely fly missions over Afghanistan and other warzones.
The Air Force declined to comment directly on the virus. “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,” says Lt. Col. Tadd Sholtis, a spokesman for Air Combat Command, which oversees the drones and all other Air Force tactical aircraft. “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.”
This is the first public release of such information. About 14 months ago with the disclosure of the Stuxnet worm and its effect on equipment in the Iranian Nuclear facilities, one industry observer noted that this was the public beginning of specialized, weaponized computer software. With the advent of a virus that is quietly monitoring U.S. Air Force Drone Crews as they fly operational missions in Afghanistan and other forward operating locations, we may be witnessing the second chapter of specialized, weaponized computer software.
As a former U.S. Air Force Officer, I sincerely wish the men and women of the U.S. Air Force Drone Team the best as they fight this newly identified danger to their operational mission.