US spy planes ‘hacked’ with off-the-shelf software

Insurgents in Iraq were able to intercept video images transmitted by the US army’s unmanned spy planes using software cheaply available on the Internet, according to a report in the Wall Street Journal.

The insurgents were not able to control the Predator drones, but military personnel told the newspaper that tactical advantages may have been compromised by the breach.

It came to light when US soldiers captured a laptop belonging to insurgents, and found that it contained video images from a Predator drone. The WSJ report cites a source claiming that insurgents regularly used satellite communications interception software “available for as little as $25.95 on the Internet”.

The news highlights an emerging dimension of the growing sophistication of the cyber-criminal underground: While once a certain degree of technical know-how was required to become a ‘hacker’, today such is the demand that cheap and easy-to-use tools are widely available on the web.

Pete Swabey

Pete Swabey

Pete was Editor of Information Age and head of technology research for Vitesse Media plc from 2005 to 2013, before moving on to be Senior Editor and then Editorial Director at The Economist Intelligence...

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