As is being reported at the Wall Street Journal online, apparently insurgents in Iraq have armed themselves with $26 off-the-shelf receivers in order to capture live video feeds from US Predator Drone UAVs.

US Predator UAV
US Predator UAV

Shiite fighters in Iraq used software programs such as SkyGrabber — available for as little as $25.95 on the Internet — to regularly capture drone video feeds, according to a person familiar with reports on the matter…In the summer 2009 incident, the military found “days and days and hours and hours of proof” that the feeds were being intercepted and shared with multiple extremist groups.


In the book A Bright Shining Lie, Neil Sheehan describes how the South Vietnamese Army (ARVN) used US military radios in the clear (unencrypted). But in that theatre of war it was very easy for North Vietnamese and Viet Minh/Viet Cong forces to obtain US military radios and therefore listen in on the movements of ARVN. Obviously this resulted in dead ARVN troops. You’d think the lesson would have been learned. But apparently not:

The potential drone vulnerability lies in an unencrypted downlink between the unmanned craft and ground control. The U.S. government has known about the flaw since the U.S. campaign in Bosnia in the 1990s, current and former officials said. But the Pentagon assumed local adversaries wouldn’t know how to exploit it, the officials said.


These types of technological exploits will continue to proliferate. Western forces are particularly vulnerable to computer-based attacks, for instance. Computer networks are ubiquitous in the West and 99% of users have no understanding of computer security. This makes our societies vulnerable in ways that Iraq or Afghanistan (even China) are not. And yet it is easy to equip small teams of insurgents with computer equipment and let them hack away at our almost entirely undefended networked systems (as I write this, BlackBerry email service in Canada is being disrupted for instance). China’s ability to isolate their national “Internet” (the Great FireWall of China) provide that country a level of security absent from North America and Europe.

Check out Unrestricted Warfare.

I thought this quick little ditty worked well as a soundtrack for flying and shooting in Iraq:

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