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Wednesday, January 28, 2009

AI and Robots: Insurgents "Hack" U.S. Drones

The Predator series of unmanned drones have been great weapons for the US government to fight terrorists and insurgents (see my previous posts). The US Department of Defense actually plans to replace one-third of military planes with unmanned drones. Any sensible person would have agreed that these unmanned drones are very sophisticated and advanced technologies highly classified because of the military and intelligence associations. However, on December 17, 2009, an article on Wall Street Journal reviewed that:
Militants in Iraq have used $26 off-the-shelf software to intercept live video feeds from U.S. Predator drones, potentially providing them with information they need to evade or monitor U.S. military operations.
WHAT???!!! When I first heard this on the NPR radio, I was on my way home, and I almost swerved off the road at this shocking news! This is unbelievable! I know the video downlink from our research UAVs are not encrypted, which means anyone with an antenna, a comm box, and a video capturing software could download video feeds from our planes. But come on! We are talking about 12 million dollars drones used by the U.S. Air Force and the CIA to fight real wars! Haven't they ever heard of the word "Encryption"? Even my neighbors' wireless networks are encrypted and cannot be accessed without a password. This is simply beyond my pithy understanding! The article used the word "hack" in the title. Did the insurgents really had to hack? The door was wide-open.

Imagine a bored terrorist pulling his laptop out to kill some free time by watching some real-time war clips, then he sees his terrorist friend's bunker in the live video feed, so he calls his friend and says, "Start your SkyGrabber program, man, I think that's your bunker!"
U.S. military personnel in Iraq discovered the problem late last year when they apprehended a Shiite militant whose laptop contained files of intercepted drone video feeds. In July, the U.S. military found pirated drone video feeds on other militant laptops, leading some officials to conclude that militant groups trained and funded by Iran were regularly intercepting feeds.

According to Dan Verton, a cyberterrorism expert, "we thought that this particular enemy was either incapable or not interested in learning how to do this...we've always been wrong on both accounts!" This is simply amazing! Didn't we know there's the Internet, and you can find tutorials for anything you want? Amazing!

"It is part of their kit now."

That's got to be the best line of the story! Especially at the thought that maybe they didn't even have to buy multiple copies and simply used pirated copies.

What's the merit of the story? Human stupidity is far more powerful than machine intelligence! As a matter of fact, I'll make that my Tao of the Day!

Human stupidity is far more powerful than machine intelligence!