The Drone Lobby Admits It Has a Cybersecurity Problem

Or should I say “challenge”?

Lee Fang hits on the most important parts of this presentation the drone lobby made last year, most notably the way they admitted they needed global conflict as a selling point for their drones.

Drone lobbyists claimed access to airspace and “Global Conflict – particularly U.S. and allied nation involvement in future conflicts” will “either positively or negatively” influence “market growth” for the industry.

But given that the US will be rolling out six test sites for drones in US airspace in the next year, I’m pretty troubled by the problems the drone lobby admits they see ahead.

Notably, cybersecurity (see page 12).

Obviously, if the Iranians can bring down one of our more sophisticated drones, we’ve got a cybersecurity problem. Though of course, this presentation was given–on June 2, 2011–six months before Iran took down our Sentinel. And four months before Wired reported that keylogger software had infected the computers at Creech Air Force Base.

So it seems that the drone lobby was aware it had this little, uh, challenge on this front. And yet DOD seemed totally unprepared anyway.

14 replies
  1. rugger9 says:

    Obviously it isn’t a priority for the DOD/CIA/JSOC and the probable burrowed Bushies to fix this, otherwise they would have done so long ago. The fact it was announced is very strange to me, why tell your adversaries [and I include Russia and the PRC along with certain elements of the Israelis and Saudis] about the gap?

    Or, is this an opportunity to float some excuse the next time one of the drones blows up a wedding party with lots of kids?

  2. PeasantParty says:

    For most of us the evidence of problems has been around for a while. Jeebus! (sigh)

    Not only their cyber security is a problem but murder appears to be a problem as well. I guess the State Department and DOD have no problems spending millions at a clip for shitty stuff.

  3. William Ockham says:

    If you think DOD has a cybersecurity problem with drones, just wait until all the local police and fire departments get their hands on them. Nothing a (certain type of) teen age boy would like better than having his own spy plane and getting the hacker cred that comes from posting the proof of your hack as an embarrassing online video.

  4. earlofhuntingdon says:

    You say problem, I say challenge or opportunity. Drones constitute entirely new, dual-purpose, multi-billion dollar weapons and support systems, ones that cannot be utilized without intense public-private corporate partnership. They illustrate the new paradigm that will impoverish both the Treasury and citizens’ rights. They will, however, generate explosive new uses for domestic spying and weapons use.

  5. P J Evans says:

    The news that the military wants 7500 drones over the US got to the LA Times this week. The comments were not friendly to the drones. Hacking them didn’t come up, though….

  6. sojourner says:

    Obviously, if the Iranians can bring down one of our more sophisticated drones, we’ve got a cybersecurity problem.

    Now, just who said it was sophisticated?? This HAS to be a secret program to lull the Iranians (and others) into a false sense of security…

  7. eCAHNomics says:

    Cyber insecurity is deliberate in at least 2 senses.

    1. Explanation by hacker is generational: bureaucrats making decisions can be taught how to use computers but they don’t understand how computers work.

    2. Like the spook biz, like military, failure is an excuse for bigger budgets.

  8. geoschmidt says:

    well, gee, maybe not Orwellian, but it isn’t too reasuring to know that the whole place is surrounded with em!

    My bad, to put Orwell in there… He was just another deal… mostly words and speak stuff, but still, it is creepy isn’t it? Isn’t that the new para dimes…? how creepy can it get… or who can be creepier than… who?

  9. Bob Schacht says:

    Obviously, if the Iranians can bring down one of our more sophisticated drones, we’ve got a cybersecurity problem.

    Back when that drone went down in Iran, I immediately posted a speculation that this was the problem, citing older incidents where the drone’s transmissions could be intercepted because the software was old and did not anticipate the need for security. My suggestion was pooh-poohed, right here at the Wheel House, scolding me that this was a different software (e.g., transmission and reception of commands *TO* the drone), and suggesting instead that maybe it had been shot down. Well, it now seems that my speculation has become conventional wisdom.

    The basic problem is that drones, and the software that runs them, were not initially designed and made for an environment where security was a problem.
    And, for a while, that was true. But, as has been true for thousands of years, if a new weapon is used against you effectively, you try to figure out how to defend against it. If Iranians can figure out most of what is needed to build a nuclear weapon, then they’re smart enough to figure out the essentials of the way we pilot our drones, and how to disable them.

    Our opponents in the Middle East are not just a band of dirty ragheads. They include computer specialists sophisticated enough to neutralize Stuxnet (although it took them a while).

    Bob in AZ

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