Fact Or Fiction? US Drones Infected By Computer Virus

Pakalert 0
  • Predator and Reaper drones ‘hit by mysterious keylogger virus’
  • Infection thought have spread via crews’ removable hard drives
  • Fears tracking logs may be on public internet and available to terrorists
  • Drone use has been suspended while security specialists investigate
  • Experts at Nevada base believe virus is most likely accidental malware
  • Drones have killed more than 2,000 people since Obama was elected

By DAILY MAIL REPORTER

The U.S. drones used to kill Anwar al-Awlaki and other Al Qaeda chiefs have been infected by a computer virus that logs their every move, it has been claimed.

The unmanned Predator, which killed the American attack planner, and the Reaper crafts are still able to complete missions over Yemen, Afghanistan and other warzones.

But each keystroke made by pilots, who operate the drones remotely from a base in Nevada, is said to be recorded by the virus and experts are struggling to remove it.

Specialists think the infection has hit both classified and unclassified machines at the base.

This means that some of the data captured by the virus may have been transmitted to the internet and could be available to terrorists online.

AMERICA’S INCREASING RELIANCE ON DRONES IN WAR ON TERROR

 In recent years the U.S. military has increasingly relied on drones, which were first used in the mid-1990s.

Although, each drone cost between $10million for a Predator and $30million for a Reaper, they are highly valued because they do not risk the lives of U.S. servicemen.

Their use, particularly in remote areas of Afghanistan, Pakistan and Yemen has risen amid the increasing military death toll.

Given the controversial nature of missions in sovereign countries, which have not approved U.S. operations, drones are seen as the best way of carrying out such missions.

Last month, a Predator drone scored its most high-profile victim yet, killing Awlaki and other Al Qaeda operatives in a convoy in Yemen.

Since President Barack Obama assumed office, a fleet of approximately 30 CIA-directed drones have hit targets in Pakistan more than 230 times.

They are understood to have killed more than 2,000 suspected terrorists and civilians.

More than 150 additional craft, under U.S. Air Force control, watch over the fighting in Afghanistan and Iraq.

American military drones struck 92 in Libya between mid-April and late August, when dictator Moammar Gaddafi was ousted from power after 42 years.

None of the remote cockpits, in which pilots steer the craft using joysticks and monitors, are supposed to be connected to the public internet.

But the so-called ‘air gaps’ between classified and public networks have reportedly been bridged in the past through the use of discs and removable drives.

Predator and Reaper crews use removable hard drives to load map updates and transport mission videos from one computer to another.

The virus is believed to have spread through these removable drives. Drone units at other Air Force bases worldwide have now been ordered to stop their use.

In the meantime, technicians at Creech Air Force Base are trying to get the virus off the Ground Control System machines.

‘We keep wiping it off, and it keeps coming back,’ says a source familiar with the network infection told technology website Wired.com.

‘We think it’s benign. But we just don’t know.’

However, security specialists at Creech are not sure whether the so-called ‘keylogger’ virus were introduced intentionally or by accident.

They believe it may be a common piece of malware that just happened to make its way into these sensitive networks.

The situation is serious enough that senior officers at Creech are being briefed daily on the virus.

In recent years the U.S. military has increasingly relied on drones, which were first used in the mid-1990s in the former Yugoslavia.

Although, each drone cost between $10million for a Predator and $30million for a Reaper, they are highly valued because they can search, spy and destroy without risking the lives of U.S. servicemen.

Their use, particularly in remote, mountainous areas of Afghanistan, Pakistan and Yemen has risen amid the increasingly alarming death toll of airmen and soldiers.

Ground Control Sytem: The drones are piloted in remote cockpits at Creech Air Force Base in NevadaGround Control Sytem: The drones are piloted in remote cockpits at Creech Air Force Base in Nevada

Massive: The Reaper, another drone allegedly infected has a wingspan of 84ft and costs $30millionMassive: The Reaper, another drone allegedly infected has a wingspan of 84ft and costs $30million

Last month, a Predator drone scored its most high-profile victim yet, killing Awlaki and other Al Qaeda operatives in a convoy in Yemen with Hellfire missiles.

Given the controversial nature of missions in sovereign countries such as the Gulf state and Pakistan, which have not approved U.S. operations, drones are seen as the best way of carrying out such missions.

Wiped out: Anwar al -Awlaki is the most high-profile target killed by a drone Wiped out: Anwar al -Awlaki is the most high-profile target killed by a drone

Since President Barack Obama assumed office, a fleet of approximately 30 CIA-directed drones have hit targets in Pakistan more than 230 times.

They are understood to have killed more than 2,000 suspected terrorists and civilians.

More than 150 additional craft, under U.S. Air Force control, watch over the fighting in Afghanistan and Iraq.

American military drones struck 92 in Libya between mid-April and late August, when dictator Moammar Gaddafi was ousted from power after 42 years.

But despite their widespread use, the drone systems are known to have security flaws.

Notably, hours of footage was captured by Iraqi insurgents in 2009 using a $26 piece of software.

The Air Force declined to comment directly on the virus, when .

‘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,’ Lieutenant Coloenel Tadd Sholtis, a spokesman for Air Combat Command, told Wired.

‘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.’

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