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(Wired)   Four years after it was revealed that US drone video feeds were broadcast in the clear and vulnerable to interception, most of them are now... still completely unencrypted   (wired.com) divider line 63
    More: Stupid, U.S., Reaper drones, AES, reapers, GPS signals, Danger Room, military officials, interceptions  
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3970 clicks; posted to Main » on 30 Oct 2012 at 10:07 AM (1 year ago)   |  Favorite    |   share:  Share on Twitter share via Email Share on Facebook   more»



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2012-10-30 08:13:10 AM
Has SIPRNET improved to the point that it would have the capable bandwidth to host large video files? Last time I used it was in 2006

Reminder, please, don't say anything that is classified.
 
2012-10-30 08:34:00 AM
I find it fascinating that hardware weight was the original issue. I think of how much my phone can do today, and its a little baffling that in 1995 the Air Force couldn't build a machine that could fly and do DES encryption at the same time.
 
2012-10-30 08:34:10 AM

cman: Has SIPRNET improved to the point that it would have the capable bandwidth to host large video files? Last time I used it was in 2006

Reminder, please, don't say anything that is classified.


Depends where you're using it at (portions of the space segment are still lousy, but the ground is pretty good these days), but that's more or less irrelevant here. Encrypting the transmission stream from the drone to the ground (or satellite) should be done regardless of where the data ends up.
 
2012-10-30 10:10:33 AM

serial_crusher: I find it fascinating that hardware weight was the original issue. I think of how much my phone can do today, and its a little baffling that in 1995 the Air Force couldn't build a machine that could fly and do DES encryption at the same time.


Think of what your computer in 1995 was like, and I bet it was less capable than your phone is now.
 
2012-10-30 10:11:21 AM
Wanted for questioning:

www.tf2killcams.com
 
2012-10-30 10:11:59 AM
Four years into the effort, however, only "30 to 50 percent" of America's Predators and Reapers are using fully encrypted transmissions, a source familiar with the retrofitting effort tells Danger Room. The total fleet won't see its communications secured until 2014.

It's almost as if government procurement agencies take time to get on contract and produce.
 
2012-10-30 10:15:13 AM

serial_crusher: its a little baffling that in 1995 the Air Force couldn't build a machine that could fly and do DES encryption at the same time.


I'm surprised they can fly at all.
/been to too many crash sites.
//put too many bodies in bags
///I never got on a USAF craft the entire time I was in. No. Way.
 
2012-10-30 10:15:38 AM
DroneTV? I'd probably watch it.
 
2012-10-30 10:21:08 AM
Meh. Tell people that the data is unencrypted. Broadcast what you want the enemy/public to see on an unencrypted channel, while announcing you are working on the "problem". Send the goodies with encrypted frequency hopping.

/One of the strongest components of encryption is to not let your opponent know you are using it.
//hang on. There's a knock on my do...
 
2012-10-30 10:21:25 AM
It seems possible that the rationale is something like "We're leaving it open on purpose. You can watch the feed all you want, but there's nothing you can do to stop the sidewinder from turning you into mist. And with a little luck that video will go viral and all your little terror buddies will see what's coming for them if they don't change their ululating ways."
 
2012-10-30 10:21:49 AM
The revolution will not be televised.
 
2012-10-30 10:22:24 AM

vudukungfu: /been to too many crash sites.
//put too many bodies in bags


Isn't that the great thing about drones? No pilot, no life support equipment at all. If one crashes or gets shot down, so what?
The knowledge that there are unmanned hunter killer robots flying around looking for would be terrifying.
 
2012-10-30 10:22:37 AM

serial_crusher: I find it fascinating that hardware weight was the original issue. I think of how much my phone can do today, and its a little baffling that in 1995 the Air Force couldn't build a machine that could fly and do DES encryption at the same time.


It's probably more than just that. The video feed is probably analog. Encrypting analog streams is difficult and complicated to get right. Digital modes have problems of their own, like not degrading gracefully. Of course nowadays they have more technology to help negate some of that but it's not a simple problem to solve.

Also I imagine in their minds they thought it would be highly unlikely that low-tech, unskilled, "whatevers" would be able to view the broadcast.
 
2012-10-30 10:23:09 AM
Even if they do manage to encrypt it, it might be for naught: If I were an insurgent, just knowing that a Predator or Reaper was in the area is good information. It allows you to hide or just act normally. Even if you can't tell *WHAT* the drone is looking at, because it's encrypted, merely being able to detect its presence is probably good enough to allow you to take measures to minimize the risk to yourself. Being able to detect the presence of a drone, especially in RF quiet areas like Afghanistan, should be fairly easy with some rudimentary hardware.

Really all you would need is the equivalent of a radar detector that listens to the frequencies associated with both the satellite uplink and the common data feed. The uplink is trickier, because you'd be listening for some sidelobe leakage (it might tell you a drone is coming when it is miles away, but would probably be useless when it's close to overhead because the satellite antenna would be pointing up), and of course for the common data feed, which would be useful and quite detectable even when the drone is directly overhead.
 
2012-10-30 10:23:16 AM

One good scenario from this would be some jackhole Taliban farker watching the feed and suddenly recognizes his house seconds before the Hellfire missile turns him into goo.

OH HAI!!!


dronewarsuk.files.wordpress.com
 
2012-10-30 10:23:17 AM
You mean we could have watched the Banghazi attack along with Obama?

/If it was really that vulnerable, Anonymous would be live-streaming it from Wikileaks or something
 
2012-10-30 10:24:06 AM
Not necessarily true; the primary feeds that are used go over encrypted satellite links. The ones that are potentially vulnerable are those transmitted directly to ground units that can't see the satellite feeds, these are not used a majority of the time.

/1000 hrs as Pred pilot
//26 years in USAF, just retired
///former fighter jock
 
2012-10-30 10:24:56 AM

unlikely: It seems possible that the rationale is something like "We're leaving it open on purpose. You can watch the feed all you want, but there's nothing you can do to stop the sidewinder from turning you into mist. And with a little luck that video will go viral and all your little terror buddies will see what's coming for them if they don't change their ululating ways."


Well, they are pretty sophisticated if we are shooting sidewinders at them: That's an air-to-air missile.
 
2012-10-30 10:27:16 AM

knbber2: Not necessarily true; the primary feeds that are used go over encrypted satellite links. The ones that are potentially vulnerable are those transmitted directly to ground units that can't see the satellite feeds, these are not used a majority of the time.

/1000 hrs as Pred pilot
//26 years in USAF, just retired
///former fighter jock


We could put the videodrome signal into the uplink, and give the pilots tumors.
 
2012-10-30 10:27:40 AM

dittybopper: serial_crusher: I find it fascinating that hardware weight was the original issue. I think of how much my phone can do today, and its a little baffling that in 1995 the Air Force couldn't build a machine that could fly and do DES encryption at the same time.

Think of what your computer in 1995 was like, and I bet it was less capable than your phone is now.


I worked for Dept. of VA in '95 when we were doing DES encryption of SSNs. We purchased DES offloading cards to handle the encryption for us or else it would have taken forever to do.
 
2012-10-30 10:27:53 AM
Moron TV?

/time to get my radio equipment and hook it up to the jumbotron
 
2012-10-30 10:32:37 AM
Sp people get a feed of us blowing shiat up? Who cares?
 
2012-10-30 10:32:42 AM

vudukungfu: I'm surprised they can fly at all.


I....what? You're surprised that the most technologically advanced and well trained air force in the world can do what they're supposed to?

I'm looking at various military websites and trying to find some of these "crash sites" with "body bags" that you have apparently dealt with, but I'm having difficulty- the only non-combat deaths of air force personnel I can find publicly listed are things like people getting hit by cars on bases, crashing cars on/off bases, older guys having heart attacks/strokes, and one dude who apparently reacted really, really poorly to a panel of immunizations. Care to elaborate?

You also mentioned that you were never in a USAF craft, but have been to many of their "crash sites". I'm not in the military, but I had the distinct impression that very few civvies get invited in to military accident/crash/fatal failure scenarios, and the few that do are generally under contract to the AF, and as such, would get shuttled there by USAF transport. Your post gives me the impression that you're a civilian contractor who somehow gets to restricted-access military sites via civilian/commercial transport. Don't you see how unlikely that sounds from this side of the wall?

Furthermore, I can't see how someone with that kind of access could have such contempt for the organization they work for- granted, lots of grunts hate the military for various reasons, but a specialist contractor (crash investigator?) heaping scorn on his employer because he sees lots of crashes/accidents as part of his job? Wat?

Unless you're a "Naval Aviator" (in which case I can see you heaping scorn on another branch just because) a lot of this doesn't make sense. If you'd said "I don't ride on those planes because they're ancient" I'd believe every word you said, as I've heard the same thing from a number of friends who are airmen. (Tanker pilots).

Really dude, you're at a greater risk of getting t-boned in an intersection on your way to work every morning than ever being in any sort of air crash. By a number of orders of magnitude.
 
2012-10-30 10:35:24 AM
This is terrible. That means the enemy can see the enemy now.
 
2012-10-30 10:36:20 AM
Government employees, lol.
 
2012-10-30 10:36:54 AM
ghare Sp people get a feed of us blowing shiat up? Who cares?

The issue is when the feed shows friendly troop positions or operating bases, the bad guys can use the images to plot locations and plan attacks. They may also be able to determine that we have found their location and move before we can respond.
 
2012-10-30 10:36:57 AM

knbber2: Not necessarily true; the primary feeds that are used go over encrypted satellite links. The ones that are potentially vulnerable are those transmitted directly to ground units that can't see the satellite feeds, these are not used a majority of the time.

/1000 hrs as Pred pilot
//26 years in USAF, just retired
///former fighter jock


A TFer and you missed this opportunity? Your post should have read:

I've spent over 1000 hours flying predators, and am a former fighter jock.

So I am really getting a kick out of these replies.

Some of you guys are very good at making it sound like you know what you are talking about.

But trust me.... You don't.

I think you just want to make yourself sound smart, when in reality you dont know what you are talking about.

This is how bad info gets passed around.

If you dont know about the topic....Dont make yourself sound like you do.

Cuz some Farkers belive anything they hear.

/I gotta do everything around here
 
2012-10-30 10:37:04 AM
At the rate we are cranking drones out and shipping them to the front lines there is no time to encrypt anything.
 
2012-10-30 10:37:09 AM
Meh; it's not like encrypted mobile communication has been around since the cold war or anything.
 
2012-10-30 10:39:07 AM
grinding journalist /I gotta do everything around here

Well put, but just trying to be helpful, at work and not too snarky today.
 
2012-10-30 10:47:41 AM

unlikely: It seems possible that the rationale is something like "We're leaving it open on purpose. You can watch the feed all you want, but there's nothing you can do to stop the sidewinder from turning you into mist. And with a little luck that video will go viral and all your little terror buddies will see what's coming for them if they don't change their ululating ways."


i think you've got it. the article keeps using the word secret when little to nothing about it is.
 
2012-10-30 10:47:42 AM

for good or for awesome: vudukungfu: /been to too many crash sites.
//put too many bodies in bags

Isn't that the great thing about drones? No pilot, no life support equipment at all. If one crashes or gets shot down, so what?
The knowledge that there are unmanned hunter killer robots flying around looking for would be terrifying.


They're still expensive and valuable assets. We can be a little more risky with them but they're not disposable. If all we need is a kamikaze that's what Tomahawks are for.
 
2012-10-30 10:49:02 AM
It's so the terrorists can watch theirs asses get blown away!

FARK YEAH!

/War, man.
 
2012-10-30 10:49:59 AM
Don't piss off the drones, they might riot....
 
2012-10-30 10:50:32 AM
So, obviously we're ok with them gaining access to the feeds.

Yes, enemy, we have this valley under constant surveillance as you can see. You don't want any of this.

Hey enemy, here's the cruise missile coming at your ass, see if you can dodge this even seeing it coming
 
2012-10-30 10:52:31 AM
Comment:
I'd just send out some drones as bait, monitor the shiat out of em, hopefully backtrace or triangulate the signal of whoever tapped in


i0.kym-cdn.com
 
2012-10-30 10:55:21 AM

crab66: Comment:
I'd just send out some drones as bait, monitor the shiat out of em, hopefully backtrace or triangulate the signal of whoever tapped in


[i0.kym-cdn.com image 562x437]


The consequences will never be the same!
 
2012-10-30 11:05:06 AM

dittybopper: Even if they do manage to encrypt it, it might be for naught: If I were an insurgent, just knowing that a Predator or Reaper was in the area is good information.


These aren't secret ninja drones. They operate in plain sight. One of the major criticisms of drones by the people living in the areas where they operate, other than death raining down from the sky, is that they have drones flying over their head 24/7. They can hear them, they can see them, and they always know that they are there - they just don't know when they're going to decide to strike. It has an awful effect on the community, keeping kids from school, adults from leaving their houses, people living in fear.
 
2012-10-30 11:07:03 AM
Knowing first-hand the prevalence of red tape in government, they're probably waiting for FIPS compliance before adding encryption.

/If you laughed at that, I feel sorry for you.
 
2012-10-30 11:08:43 AM

ThrobblefootSpectre: /One of the strongest components of encryption is to not let your opponent know you are using it.


Uh... not typically, no. There's a reason "security through obscurity" is considered a pejorative.
 
2012-10-30 11:17:44 AM

China White Tea: ThrobblefootSpectre: /One of the strongest components of encryption is to not let your opponent know you are using it.

Uh... not typically, no. There's a reason "security through obscurity" is considered a pejorative.


"Security through obscurity" really only works for the lowest hanging fruit. Oddly enough, I'd think the video streams from US drones is not the lowest hanging fruit.
 
2012-10-30 11:26:07 AM

Sudo_Make_Me_A_Sandwich: dittybopper: Even if they do manage to encrypt it, it might be for naught: If I were an insurgent, just knowing that a Predator or Reaper was in the area is good information.

These aren't secret ninja drones. They operate in plain sight. One of the major criticisms of drones by the people living in the areas where they operate, other than death raining down from the sky, is that they have drones flying over their head 24/7. They can hear them, they can see them, and they always know that they are there - they just don't know when they're going to decide to strike. It has an awful effect on the community, keeping kids from school, adults from leaving their houses, people living in fear.


You've got better ears than I if you can hear a Rotax 914 flying at 15,000+ feet. My father's plane has a Rotax 447 (roughly half a 914, both in size and power), and I can't hear his plane when he's at half that altitude. It's also about half the size of a predator, and I have problems seeing it even when it's relatively close and at a relatively low altitude, and I *KNOW* when and from where he's coming because I listen to his radio transmissions.

In fact, he got a survey about his flying habits because his aircraft is based near the Adirondacks, and the Reaper drones based at Hancock Field in Syracuse will be flying in the MOAs up there. They specifically asked about flying higher than 12,000 feet. The MQ-9 Reaper has an operational altitude of 25,000 feet.
 
2012-10-30 11:28:09 AM

zarberg: China White Tea: ThrobblefootSpectre: /One of the strongest components of encryption is to not let your opponent know you are using it.

Uh... not typically, no. There's a reason "security through obscurity" is considered a pejorative.

"Security through obscurity" really only works for the lowest hanging fruit. Oddly enough, I'd think the video streams from US drones is not the lowest hanging fruit.


I thought it was because managing decryption keys was a worse problem than having unencrypted video feeds.

Maybe that's changed now that drones are so commonplace and are flying over different types of target (eg. the entire continental USA...)
 
2012-10-30 11:39:11 AM

grinding_journalist:
I....what? [Trollpoke redacted] Really dude, you're at a greater risk of getting t-boned in an intersection on y ...


When you are stationed in an area and they keep on hitting the same farking mountian soon after take off, you realize that that mountain littered with crashed planes is a monument to either stupidity, lack of training, or mechanical failure, and not just there for the lulz.

Check out Manzano Mountain sometime. It's a graveyard. Kind of like the outerbanks for planes.
Almost as if there was a plane magnet in the mountain.
I mean, you can see the mountain because it sticks up out of the desert. It's right farking there.
Yet somehow, these finest officers seem to be able to slam right into it year after year after year.
 
2012-10-30 11:40:10 AM
Oh and September 14, 1977? I was there.
Right after the RUSH concert.
 
2012-10-30 11:42:19 AM

Joce678: managing decryption keys was a worse problem than having unencrypted video feeds

Maybe that's changed now that drones are so commonplace and are flying over different types of target (eg. the entire continental USA...)


Sounds like that's an entirely separate problem than the one that caused this. But even if they could have gotten performant hardware in there, this probably would have popped up.

The ones patrolling the border etc would probably be OK with key rotation causing a few hiccups in service, but if you've got a guy on the ground getting shot at who can't communicate with the drone because his keys are out of sync, that's a shiatty situation to be in.
 
2012-10-30 11:44:18 AM

crab66: Comment:
I'd just send out some drones as bait, monitor the shiat out of em, hopefully backtrace or triangulate the signal of whoever tapped in


[i0.kym-cdn.com image 562x437]


If the cyber police can do it, surely the cyber air force can too.
 
2012-10-30 11:44:40 AM
What channel is it on? ;)
 
2012-10-30 12:09:16 PM
This would look good on SurveillanceSaver.
 
2012-10-30 12:28:47 PM

Joce678: zarberg: China White Tea: ThrobblefootSpectre: /One of the strongest components of encryption is to not let your opponent know you are using it.

Uh... not typically, no. There's a reason "security through obscurity" is considered a pejorative.

"Security through obscurity" really only works for the lowest hanging fruit. Oddly enough, I'd think the video streams from US drones is not the lowest hanging fruit.

I thought it was because managing decryption keys was a worse problem than having unencrypted video feeds.

Maybe that's changed now that drones are so commonplace and are flying over different types of target (eg. the entire continental USA...)


I would think with today's technology it wouldn't be hard to have a key pair in place, one is attached to the drone, the other is attached to the computer monitoring the video feed. If said drone crashes, it's not a huge deal, as both keys are needed for a good feed.

The beauty of paired key encryption is half the planet knows how it works, if your key is big enough no organization save one with the secret quantum computer can brute-force hack it, and there's no non-brute force way to hack it outside of having both key pairs.
 
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