Skip to comments.US killer spy drone controls switch to Linux
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." ®
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.
“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?
Yeah, but if it weren’t for Windows (and Stuxnet), Iran might have a nuke by now....
Why don't we just go ahead and share the code while we're at it.
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?”
Who is in charge of Air Force security?..
REally they must be SLAPPED HARD.. hazed.. maybe demoted..
Somebody is an idiot.. maybe several people..
“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.
“Im sorry, but are you saying that Linux is *more* expensive than Linux?”
Good grief. I mean Linux more expensive than Windows.
—...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.
Who was the jackwad who wrote the RFP
Well Duh !
bid Specifications for classified drones ?
Who was the jackwad who wrote the RFP
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.
You’d think the whole Blue Screen of Death thing would have made Windows a shoe-in!