Skip to comments.Iran may have captured U.S. stealth drone by hacking its GPS
Posted on 12/17/2011 6:33:01 PM PST by upchuck
The CIA and the U.S. military may have a serious security flaw to deal with if an Iranian engineer's story proves to be true. Speaking to Christian Science Monitor (CSM), he detailed how a team of specialists from his country hacked into a U.S. spy drone's GPS navigator in order to capture it. That's the same one the U.S. government claimed has landed in Iran's territory in early December due to a malfunction.
The Iranian specialists reportedly figured out that the RQ-170 Sentinel's weakest point is its GPS by examining previously downed American drones back in September. Using this knowledge, they designed a trap for one of the drones doing reconnaissance work in the country: "By putting noise [jamming] on the communications, you force the bird into autopilot. This is where the bird loses its brain," the engineer says. The team then simply programmed it to "land on its own where [they] wanted it to." The engineer asserts that the whole process is as easy as hacking into a Google account. The attack was ultimately successful, leading the unmanned vehicle to land in Iran instead of its home base in Afghanistan.
A 2003 study on GPS vulnerability indicates that the U.S. military has known about the problem for nearly a decade. If the RQ-170 in Iran's possession was indeed hacked, it means the susceptibility is yet to be fixed. This isn't the first time a U.S. drone's security was compromised: back in 2009, videos sent by stealth drones to their ground control stations were intercepted by Iraqi insurgents. And earlier this year, a virus had infected not one, but a whole fleet of unmanned vehicles.
What jackwad in the Pentagon allowed Micro$oft
to bid on this Top Secret system ?
Best bet....Obama forget to issue a "destroy" call.
What are the chances they would have tried this if GWB was still in office?
None of this rings true at all.
Even a novice design team would build in at least triple layer watchdog systems.
There is no way a simple loss of GPS would cause all the systems to fail. Furthermore,
corruption of one system by trojan or virus would not take out the other watchdog
systems. These systems are kept isolated from each other by code base and power supply
and in some instances they have different design teams to ensure against sabotage.
Any one of the redundant systems would either result in the drone returning to friendly
airspace or the destruction of the craft.
GPS is not the sole method of determining the crafts location. They can follow terrain
just as a cruise missile can by referencing mapping data. GPS can give a drone pinpoint
navigation but that is overkill, within a few hundred yards is sufficient and even the
old system of inertial guidance can handle that.
The notion that the craft sustained damage because the landing strip is not at the same
altitude as the real one somewhere in Afghanistan is absurd! A sophisticated drone does
not rely on GPS to determine height above a runway, such a task is childs play for even
a low dollar radar altimeter system. A remote controled plane enthusiast could build such
a system for his toy planes.
You simply cannot jam the communications system of a drone from the ground! They have
a link to low orbit satellites and the antenna for this is atop the craft and shielded from
a signal located on the ground. A break of this link would also result in a countdown to
self destruct that could only be halted by an encrypted code sent back from the drones
There is much much more I could say, I will say that this whole story strikes me as ridiculous
in the extreme.
thx for the perspective.
I need to correct the previous remark. Some Muslims are good people. I have met them. Many are disgusted with the things that the islamofacsists do in the name of Islam.
It is sickening our so-called leaders have done nothing about this act of war.
That is an American plane.
It was attacked.
First of all only 8% of the entire nation has flush toilets an you really think they did that plueese........give me a break.....The military lost control of it over Afghanistan and it crashed in Iran 18 miles into there nation of zero flush toilets and damn little electricity. I personally flew in and out of there for the USAF out of Rhine Main and we had to bring our own drinking water cause there’s was half mud........
Hack-proof? Why? The danged digital control signal was/is UNENCRYPTED!
Of course - if anyone is surprised this happened, then they probably believe Santa Clause is alive and lives at the North Pole... Lets see:
1. spy drones fly with unencrypted transmission
2. Same-said assets have been constantly infected with keylogger spyware/trojan (someone explain how this happens... unless it is intentionally allowed...)
3. No automatic self destruct (called an “oversight” by the CIA... yea, right.
4. No automatic return-to-base function if communication is disrupted (though is quite doable and available) .
Did you see how Obama smirked when he said that we could ask the Iranians to give it back to us? It’s all a joke to him, what an adolescent.
Find it interesting how Iran, who is just now getting around to nuclear technology (we have had since World War II), has the ability to hack one of our top drones?
They can barely build nuclear weapons and an old technology. However, they sure as heck can hack one of the most secure military drones in the world?
Yes, nice link :-)
It’s easy to spoof GPS.
What is not easy is to somehow fool the redundant on-board positioning systems so that they do not catch the sudden change of location. A sudden shift of location from somewhere over Iran to somewhere over Afghanistan is pretty hard to miss..lol :-)
The instant such a sudden change in GPS takes place the system would know it was being attacked and would no longer rely on any GPS data. It would default to another system like inertial positioning or simply look at the terrain below or check the rf spectrum footprint....there are at least a half dozen ways a drone could get its location...some are non-intuitive and not widely understood.
The fact that GPS is so easy to manipulate is becoming a plus. Many who think they are sophisticated are relying on their ability to mess with GPS as a shield against US tech functioning properly. When the SHTF our stuff will indeed work just fine and they will be a laughingstock :-)
The UAV already has a hack-proof GPS. It's called INS - Inertial navigation System.
Even the cheap GPS guided JDAMs we drop have a backup INS onboard.
I think the idea was to incrementally change the data so as not to make the changes noticeable (i.e. nudge it, don’t teleport it) to the control s/w. I also would bet that our good personal friends from Russia and China would be helping out as much as possible - so it’s not just the Iranians doing the hacking. Too bad we didn’t leave a big crater and then blame it on them GPS spoofing our JDAM. Oops - sorry about that! ;-)
Um, gradual or not there is just no way the on board systems would not know life had suddenly turned weird :-)
Remember, there would be more than one independent system watching the drone’s progress.
Plus somewhere there was a real live human operator paying attention. The following is a very simplified way of explaining what would occur and what the drone’s systems would be reporting both to the operations base and to the redundant systems on the craft.
Hello, I’m crossing into Iran now, just tooling along everything is just fine.
Hello again, GPS says somehow I have inexplicably turned around and am heading back to base!?
Hello, I just checked inertial guidance and it says I’m still going in the right direction... WTF is going on!?
Hello again, I’m looking around and it sure looks like Iran to me! Please advise?
Hello, I’ve started a watchdog timer for self destruct, please advise if you want me to stop it!?
LOL... as I said, this story is ridiculous.
Something tells me this drone is something other than is being reported!? Or else we have morons building our drones.
p.s. It is no great trick to design GPS equipment so that it can tell the difference between a GPS signal source in orbit where it’s supposed to be and one transmitting from someplace else.
And the author may have genital warts.
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