US Predator and Reaper drones in Afghanistan were hacked and a virus inserted into their remote cockpits at Creech Air Force Base in Nevada, logging every keystroke their pilots make.
These remote drones, arguably the most pivotal piece of American war efforts in Afghanistan over the last 10 years, have continued to fly missions even though the threat was first detected two weeks ago. There is no indication that sensitive or classified data was retrieved as a result of the virus, but it continues to pose a problem.
“We keep wiping it off, and it keeps coming back,” says a source familiar with the network infection, one of three that told Danger Room about the virus. “We think it’s benign. But we just don’t know.”
30 CIA-controlled drones have been flying missions since 2008 when President Obama took office and have hit more than 230 targets in Pakistan during that time. Over 2000 deaths have been “credited” to the drones in that time. The Air Force uses 5 times as many Predators and Reaper drones in Afghanistan and Iraq.
The Air Force declined to comment directly on the virus. “We generally do not discuss specific vulnerabilities, threats, or responses to our computer networks, since that helps people looking to exploit or attack our systems to refine their approach,” says Lt. Col. Tadd Sholtis, a spokesman for Air Combat Command, which oversees the drones and all other Air Force tactical aircraft. “We invest a lot in protecting and monitoring our systems to counter threats and ensure security, which includes a comprehensive response to viruses, worms, and other malware we discover.”