Yet Another “Lady Gaga” Exposure Forces DOD to Wipe Drone Control Computers

On Friday, Wired broke the news that the DOD suffered yet another breach because they continue to leave computers exposed to outside storage systems. (h/t WO) In this case, the Ground Control Stations they use to control drones got infected with a keylogger virus.

But time and time again, the so-called “air gaps” between classified and public networks have been bridged, largely through the use of discs and removable drives. In late 2008, for example, the drives helped introduce the agent.btz worm to hundreds of thousands of Defense Department computers. The Pentagon is still disinfecting machines, three years later.

Use of the drives is now severely restricted throughout the military. But the base at Creech was one of the exceptions, until the virus hit. 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.

After a virus was introduced into computers in Iraq three years ago via thumb drive, DOD claimed it had prohibited the use of any removable media with their computers. But then Bradley Manning allegedly removed hundreds of thousands of classified cables from SIPRNet using a Lady Gaga CD. Rather than making all computers inaccessible to removable media at that point, DOD left 12% of their computers vulnerable, deploying a buddy-system to prevent people from taking files inappropriately; but human buddy systems don’t necessarily prevent the transmission of viruses.

The good news is that the Host-Based Security System implemented in response to Wikileaks discovered the virus–two weeks ago.

But here’s the other interesting wrinkle. To get rid of these viruses, techs have resorted to wiping the hard drives of the targeting computers.

In the meantime, technicians at Creech are trying to get the virus off the GCS machines. It has not been easy. At first, they followed removal instructions posted on the website of the Kaspersky security firm. “But the virus kept coming back,” a source familiar with the infection says. Eventually, the technicians had to use a software tool called BCWipe to completely erase the GCS’ internal hard drives. “That meant rebuilding them from scratch” — a time-consuming effort.

Given what little we know about the Anwar al-Awlaki assassination (which, as Wired points out, happened after the virus had knowingly infected these computers), this should not affect the computers that ten days ago killed two US citizens with no due process. The Newsweek story describing the CIA’s targeting process says that targeting is done in VA, not NV, where the virus hit.

But particularly given the questions about Samir Khan’s death, consider if that weren’t the case. That would mean a key piece of evidence about whether or not the US knowingly executed an American engaging in speech might be completely eliminated, wiped clean to fix a predictable virus.

That’s not the only risk, of course. We’ve talked before about how long it’ll take for Iran or Mexican drug cartels to hack our armed drones. If this virus were passed via deliberate hack, rather than sloppiness, then we might be one step closer to that eventuality.

All because DOD continues to refuse to take simple steps to secure their computers.

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bmaz @WesleyLowery @SariHorwitz In fairness, nobody who actually understands CRD jurisdiction ever thought there would be charges.
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bmaz @the_intercept @ggreenwald You should put a link to the media petition in that post.
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bmaz RT @iMusing: Fuck this shit: Boys get chemistry, engineering & astronomy. Girls get science with a sparkle http://t.co/8Bd1aKcO0b Via @abso
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bmaz @RKTlaw I have I think, but can't remember where.
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bmaz @Javakev Welp, gonna be hard, he is running unopposed.
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bmaz @Javakev Far as I can tell, he was last reelected in 2010 and is up for reelection right now.
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bmaz No ordinary grand jury is EVER conducted the way McCulloch is conducting the #MikeBrown grand jury. Never.
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bmaz Bob McCulloch's biased+conflicted antics in handling #MikeBrown grand jury are an embarrassment to justice system. People should be outraged
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bmaz But when it comes to fairness and justice for the actual victim, #MikeBrown, Bob McCulloch is apparently willing to do nothing.
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bmaz So, Bob McCulloch will do EVERYTHING imaginable to give "fairness" to Darren Wilson, things he admits even he has NEVER done before.
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bmaz With a larger grand jury panel, eliminating one juror would not create nearly the damage to credibility it will for #MikeBrown GJ grand jury
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bmaz By eliminating a grand juror, only 11 would be left and the percentage necessary to indict goes up from 75% to 82%. McClloch prob likes that
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