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Cyber / Military
Hacking the Weapons

8 Aug 2014
Reports of large-scale cyber hacking have become so common that the latest round - of 1,200,000,000 user names and passwords from 400,000 websites, for an average of a mere 3,000 per website - still fails to feel like the wake-up call that our Internet-addicted society needs if it is to survive a real cyber war.

Three months ago I thought perhaps a TV show like 24, depicting what happens when a terrorist group hacks a fleet of drones, then uses them for international blackmail and mass murder, would serve the purpose. Then I realized we've become too put off by the psychochotic behavior of Kiefer Sutherland's Jack Bauer to take it seriously either, even though tens of thousands of lives were putatively at stake.

Consider instead the stories of real-life drone hacking which inspire what is hopefully 24's last season. In 2009 a group of Iraqi Shiite fighters used a $26 off the shelf program to grab the video feed from an American Predator drone. The story was widely reported in papers like The Guardian. To read one of the articles, CLICK HERE.

In case you're skeptical that such a thing is possible, you can start hacking drones today with the exact same SkyGrabber software BY CLICKING HERE. Warning to the legally naïve: There are many, many reasons to think that use of this software in the United States, particularly in regard to military vehicles, is a violation of federal law. Consult an ACLU attorney and bondsman before proceeding. But there you have it: It's that easy to do.

Of course, taking control of a drone's total command and control system is a different matter, but you would have to be doubly naïve to think this is a substantial barrier. America, China, Israel, Iran and other countries are actively pursuing drone programs with remote control weapons attack capabilities of increasing significance. The days of autonomous drones are still ahead of us, but how far ahead is hard to say.

US Zumwalt
USS Zumwalt in preparations for christening
But let's not limit the conversation to remote-controlled small-frame aircraft. What if a nuclear-armed B-52 could be remote controlled? Could it be hacked with software available even to Third World enemies? The U.S. Navy is building the Zumwalt class of destroyers with electronic integration of all command, control and fire systems. Could those be made remote controllable? If so, could they be hacked? The correct answer is yes, they could be hacked. The lesson of the last few years is that everyone is hackable. Don't you wonder whether Vladimir Putin chuckles over President Obama's private text messages? I'm pretty sure he does.

Stay tuned for updates, because this issue is not going away. If you'd like to get onto a private subscription list to follow cyber war issues, CLICK HERE.

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