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11 October 2011, 10:42

Key logging virus infects US military drones

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US Air Force According to Wired magazine, a virus has infected US Air Force drone control systems. The Predator and Reaper drones are unmanned, and are used for conducting surveillance and enemy strikes. Although the virus is reported to contain a key logger, the virus' exact identity has not been disclosed.

The security breach came to light when the military's Host-Based Security System detected the virus approximately two weeks ago. The Creech, Nevada, ground control station (GCS) which controls the two drones is one of the few that still uses removable storage drives to transfer mission and map data. So far, no damage appears to have been done: missions have continued to be carried out from the GCS and there have been no reports of the key-logged data appearing publicly.

Technicians first tried to remove the virus that was infecting their Windows based systems by following instructions on the Kaspersky web site, but when this proved unsuccessful they instead wiped the GCS' hard drives and rebuilt the systems from scratch. An un-named source told Wired: "We keep wiping it off, and it keeps coming back. We think it's benign. But we just don't know." It is not yet known whether the virus was deliberately installed or if the computers were infected "naturally". The removable drives in the GCS are a prime suspect; last year, infected removable media caused what the Deputy Secretary of Defense described as "the most significant breach of US military computers ever" when a USB flash drive was connected to a laptop in a military base in the Middle East.

This is not the first time there has been a security breach related to US drones. In December 2009, a lack of video encryption allowed "days and days and hours and hours" of video from US Predator drones to be intercepted by insurgents in Iraq and Afghanistan.

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