Free Republic
Browse · Search
News/Activism
Topics · Post Article

Skip to comments.

US killer spy drone controls switch to Linux
The Register ^ | 12 January 2012 | John Leyden

Posted on 01/12/2012 8:49:09 AM PST by ShadowAce

The control of US military spy drones appears to have shifted from Windows to Linux following an embarrassing malware infection.

Ground control systems at Creech Air Force Base in Nevada, which commands the killer unmanned aircraft, became infected with a virus last September. In a statement at the time the Air Force dismissed the electronic nasty as a nuisance and said it posed no threat to the operation of Reaper drones, but the intrusion was nonetheless treated seriously.

"The ground system is separate from the flight control system Air Force pilots use to fly the aircraft remotely; the ability of the pilots to safely fly these aircraft remained secure throughout the incident," it said.

The discovery of the virus was nonetheless hugely embarrassing for the Air Force. The credential-stealing malware, first reported by Wired, made its way from a portable hard drive onto ground systems, which control the drones' weapons and surveillance functions. Portable disks are used to load map updates and transfer mission videos from one computer to another, Defense News added.

"The malware was detected on a standalone mission support network using a Windows-based operating system," a US Air Force statement at the time explained. "The malware in question is a credential stealer, not a keylogger, found routinely on computer networks and is considered more of a nuisance than an operational threat. It is not designed to transmit data or video, nor is it designed to corrupt data, files or programs on the infected computer. Our tools and processes detect this type of malware as soon as it appears on the system, preventing further reach."

Drone units were advised to stop using the removable drives to prevent another outbreak. Behind the scenes other changes appear to have been made: screenshots of drone control computers uploaded by security researcher Mikko Hypponen suggest that at least some of the consoles have been migrated from Microsoft Windows to open source Linux.

Photos of US drone control systems taken in 2009 (here) and 2011 (here) provide evidence of the change - in the earlier picture the Windows desktop GUI can be easily discerned whereas the latter slide indicates the new systems are Linux-based and have "improved displays".

The 2009 photo originally came from the air force base's website but the image has since been removed. A cropped copy can be found here. The 2010 slide came from an unclassified presentation on the US's unmanned drone operations.

Hypponen told The Reg: "If I would need to select between Windows XP and a Linux based system while building a military system, I wouldn't doubt a second which one I would take." ®


TOPICS: Technical
KEYWORDS: linux; military

1 posted on 01/12/2012 8:49:21 AM PST by ShadowAce
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | View Replies]

To: rdb3; Calvinist_Dark_Lord; GodGunsandGuts; CyberCowboy777; Salo; Bobsat; JosephW; ...

2 posted on 01/12/2012 8:50:33 AM PST by ShadowAce (Linux -- The Ultimate Windows Service Pack)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: rdb3; Calvinist_Dark_Lord; GodGunsandGuts; CyberCowboy777; Salo; Bobsat; JosephW; ...

3 posted on 01/12/2012 8:51:15 AM PST by ShadowAce (Linux -- The Ultimate Windows Service Pack)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: ShadowAce

My webserver is linux, nary a hickup. My desktop windows is always catching something.

You can argue I need better anti-virus, which is a truism. But the infections have been getting nastier and more sophisticated by quantum leaps. I just can’t continue to risk my business on Windows staying safe.


4 posted on 01/12/2012 8:55:54 AM PST by FastCoyote (I am intolerant of the intolerable.)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: ShadowAce

“a credential stealer”

As in: I’m not really controlling you from Teheran, see? my credentials say I’m really at Creech...

That kind of credential?


5 posted on 01/12/2012 8:57:05 AM PST by null and void (Day 1086 of America's ObamaVacation from reality [Heroes aren't made, Frank, they're cornered...])
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: ShadowAce

Yeah, but if it weren’t for Windows (and Stuxnet), Iran might have a nuke by now....


6 posted on 01/12/2012 9:05:59 AM PST by Mannaggia l'America
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: ShadowAce
Secrets, we don't need no stinking secrets.

Why don't we just go ahead and share the code while we're at it.

7 posted on 01/12/2012 9:11:25 AM PST by TexasCajun
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: ShadowAce

8 posted on 01/12/2012 9:12:10 AM PST by hamboy (I use Linux since Red Hat 5.0 as multi-boot with Windows NT... :-))
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: ShadowAce

How about hiring some competant programmers to make sure you dont get infected...

If Linux is the answer then the question must be “How much more expensive can we make this?”


9 posted on 01/12/2012 9:14:45 AM PST by Mr. K (Physically unable to profreed <--- oops, see?)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: ShadowAce

Who is in charge of Air Force security?..
REally they must be SLAPPED HARD.. hazed.. maybe demoted..
Somebody is an idiot.. maybe several people..


10 posted on 01/12/2012 9:18:07 AM PST by hosepipe (This propaganda has been edited to include some fully orbed hyperbole...)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: Mr. K

“How about hiring some competant programmers to make sure you dont get infected...

If Linux is the answer then the question must be “How much more expensive can we make this?””

I’m sorry, but are you saying that Linux is *more* expensive than Linux? If so, exactly which planet are you from?

BFT is also Linux based, btw, as are a lot of other systems.


11 posted on 01/12/2012 9:28:11 AM PST by cizinec ("Brother, your best friend ain't your Momma, it's the Field Artillery.")
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 9 | View Replies]

To: cizinec; Mr. K

“I’m sorry, but are you saying that Linux is *more* expensive than Linux?”

Good grief. I mean Linux more expensive than Windows.


12 posted on 01/12/2012 9:30:20 AM PST by cizinec ("Brother, your best friend ain't your Momma, it's the Field Artillery.")
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 11 | View Replies]

To: Mannaggia l'America
I bet even if Iran would use Unix or Unix-like OS still there's no guarantee.  Any system have backdoor exploits and flaws put there intentionally.  Even then when human efforts fail the finger of G-d excels!

You can read click here the article through the bottom of the page about "The Finger of G-d!"


13 posted on 01/12/2012 9:51:53 AM PST by hamboy (I use Linux since Red Hat 5.0 as dual-boot with Windows NT... :-))
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 6 | View Replies]

To: ShadowAce

—...the Air Force dismissed the electronic nasty as a nuisance and said it posed no threat to the operation of Reaper drones...—

Nasty nuisance: It flashed an image on the remote pilot’s console every three minutes advertizing a hot local singles site. But since it used the GPS of the drone to locate them, all the hot singles were wearing burkas.


14 posted on 01/12/2012 9:56:55 AM PST by cuban leaf (Were doomed! Details at eleven.)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

I've been using Linux, mostly as my only OS, since 1993 and I too have not had the problems.
15 posted on 01/12/2012 10:07:07 AM PST by pyx (Rule#1.The LEFT lies.Rule#2.See Rule#1. IF THE LEFT CONTROLS THE LANGUAGE, IT CONTROLS THE ARGUMENT.)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 2 | View Replies]

To: ShadowAce
US military spy drones appears to have shifted from Windows to Linux

Well Duh !

Who was the jackwad who wrote the RFP
bid Specifications for classified drones ?


16 posted on 01/12/2012 10:17:49 AM PST by Uri’el-2012 (Psalm 119:174 I long for Your salvation, YHvH, Your law is my delight.)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: pyx
I've been using Linux, mostly as my only OS, since 1993 and I too have not had the problems.Did you say you were using Linux since '93? Which distro?
17 posted on 01/12/2012 10:39:51 AM PST by hamboy (I tried Slackware back in '91 but couldn't scale the X Window to fullscreen.)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 15 | View Replies]

To: ShadowAce
The problem with Windows security is that every script-kiddie on the planet has Windows on his desk. Windows is a victim of its own popularity.

Often the folks who know Linux have too much invested in their knowledge/profession to go risking it through hacking.

Also, SeLinux was developed by the same type of folks that put a man on the moon. Can't go wrong there!

As always, there are exceptions.

18 posted on 01/12/2012 10:50:37 AM PST by The Duke
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: ShadowAce

You’d think the whole Blue Screen of Death thing would have made Windows a shoe-in!


19 posted on 01/12/2012 11:17:42 AM PST by Still Thinking (Freedom is NOT a loophole!)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: hamboy
Did you say you were using Linux since '93? Which distro?

Yes. Originally, we (end users) didn't use an actual distribution. We either compiled or downloaded bootable versions of the kernel and some accessory helper application programs, libraries and system/helper files.

I think the very first actual distribution I used was from Yggdrisil (sp). Then I changed to other distros such as Slackware, Red Hat and Debian (long before the days of Lenny and SID :) ). From there, I've tried various hybrids such as, custom, Studio64 Linux, Arch Linux and Ubuntu.

20 posted on 01/12/2012 11:21:07 AM PST by pyx (Rule#1.The LEFT lies.Rule#2.See Rule#1. IF THE LEFT CONTROLS THE LANGUAGE, IT CONTROLS THE ARGUMENT.)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 17 | View Replies]

To: pyx

I run Slackware now and love it used to be a distro hopper But came back to one of my first. I used to run BSD back in the early 90s Minix, Bell Labs, Plan9,used to have to compile everything and then dd everything to your hard drive!


21 posted on 01/12/2012 11:47:45 AM PST by Lees Swrd ("Arms discourage and keep the invader and plunderer in awe and preserve order in the world as well")
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 20 | View Replies]

To: Lees Swrd
I recall Minix as being ... a challenge. LOL
22 posted on 01/12/2012 12:02:20 PM PST by pyx (Rule#1.The LEFT lies.Rule#2.See Rule#1. IF THE LEFT CONTROLS THE LANGUAGE, IT CONTROLS THE ARGUMENT.)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 21 | View Replies]

To: pyx

It still is I got a copy of the new Minix and could not get it up and running. I think I may have lost my touch!

They claim Linux is for Geeks now, I wonder what we would have been called back in the day.I can recall on some older systems taking over 8hrs to compile one program. Most Distros now you can install in 10 mins and everything under the sun is included,click and go is what I call it ...


23 posted on 01/12/2012 12:29:00 PM PST by Lees Swrd ("Arms discourage and keep the invader and plunderer in awe and preserve order in the world as well")
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 22 | View Replies]

To: Lees Swrd
I can recall on some older systems taking over 8hrs to compile one program.

Even on a new dual core processor (I'm not rich enough for a quad core and it might give me pimples) an optimized kernel, its patches and new modules takes about two hours to compile and install.

24 posted on 01/12/2012 12:58:23 PM PST by pyx (Rule#1.The LEFT lies.Rule#2.See Rule#1. IF THE LEFT CONTROLS THE LANGUAGE, IT CONTROLS THE ARGUMENT.)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 23 | View Replies]

To: hamboy

No kidding.  I don't have enough spare time or money to run MS-windows.

25 posted on 01/12/2012 1:32:45 PM PST by zeugma (Those of us who work for a living are outnumbered by those who vote for a living.)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 8 | View Replies]

To: ShadowAce
Obama gives drone to Iran
26 posted on 01/12/2012 1:39:22 PM PST by Bon mots ("When seconds count, the police are just minutes away...")
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: ShadowAce

If I was prone to following populists, I’d say that Windows SUCKS...but I’m not prone, and it works fine for me.


27 posted on 01/12/2012 3:58:44 PM PST by BobL ("Heartless" and "Inhumane" FReepers for Cain - we've HAD ENOUGH)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

Disclaimer: Opinions posted on Free Republic are those of the individual posters and do not necessarily represent the opinion of Free Republic or its management. All materials posted herein are protected by copyright law and the exemption for fair use of copyrighted works.

Free Republic
Browse · Search
News/Activism
Topics · Post Article

FreeRepublic, LLC, PO BOX 9771, FRESNO, CA 93794
FreeRepublic.com is powered by software copyright 2000-2008 John Robinson