Predator Drone Dimensions
December 14, 2011 by staff
Reports confirm that the US believes Iran is now in possession of “one of the more sensitive surveillance platforms in the CIA’s fleet”, but deny Iran’s involvement. Of course, Iran’s claim of overtaking the drone with its cyber warfare team should be tempered with a serious dose of scepticism, as cyber security experts say the facts may not add up. But this is just the latest story in a series of incidents that raises worrying questions about security problems caused by drones. And given the coming proliferation of drone technology both domestically and abroad, this should be a concern to citizens all over the world.
Two years ago the Wall Street Journal reported Iran-funded militants in Iraq were able to hack into drones’ live-video feeds with “$26 off-the-shelf software”. In another unnerving incident, Wired reported in October that a fleet of the Air Force’s drones was infected with a computer virus that captured all of drones’ key strokes. Technicians continually deleted the virus to no avail. How did the drones get infected? The military is “not quite sure”. Worse, the Air Force’s cyber security team didn’t even know about the virus until they read about it in Wired.
Wired reported in a separate story that an upcoming Congressional report will detail how hackers broke into the US satellite system. With one satellite, hackers “achieved all steps required to command” it, “but never actually exercised control”.
Last summer, a drone caused a scene in the nation’s capital, when, as New York Times wrote, “fighter jets were almost scrambled after a rogue Fire Scout drone, the size of a small helicopter, wandered into Washington’s restricted airspace”. A similar incident took place in Afghanistan where military planes had to shoot down a “runaway drone” when pilots lost control.
The US, of course, leads the world in drone use for both surveillance and combat missions. Attacks are carried out in Pakistan every four days on average. Many times, the US isn’t even sure exactly who they are killing. Despite the fact that the location of vast majority of drone bases are classified, journalist Nick Turse pieced together a startling picture of the massive US fleet. He determined that the US has at least 60 drone bases operated by either the US military or the CIA around the world, and “most of these facilities have remained unnoted, uncounted, and remarkably anonymous – until now”.
But drone use is not just relegated to US military. Drone manufacturers already command a $94bn market, according to some estimates, and the drone arms race is in full swing. As the Washington Post reported, the constant buzz of drones and threats of attack now dominates the lives of civilians in Gaza. And Turkey plans to have Predator drones in operation by June 2012.
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