WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The Pentagon has closed a security breach that allowed insurgents to hack into data feeds from pilotless “drone” aircraft that provide real-time video of war zones, a U.S. defense official said on Thursday.
The comments followed a report in the Wall Street Journal that revealed Shi’ite fighters in Iraq used software that cost as little as $26 to intercept the video feeds, potentially allowing them to monitor U.S. military operations.
“It is an old issue that was addressed and fixed,” the U.S. defense official said when asked about the article.
The article said U.S. military personnel in Iraq discovered the problem last year after apprehending a Shi’ite insurgent who had digital files of drone video feeds on his laptop. More files were found on other militants’ laptops in July.
Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman declined to discuss details of the article, or intelligence matters more broadly. But he defended the expanding use of drone aircraft in Iraq and Afghanistan, which provide “eyes in the sky” to track enemy movements and keep U.S. troops out of harm’s way.
“Every capability comes with its advantages, disadvantages, benefits as well as potential weaknesses,” Whitman said.
“As you develop those (technologies) you have to be mindful of how the enemy can counteract any technology that you have. That’s why you always have a constant review process in place to not only improve that capability but address any vulnerabilities it may have.”
Publicly traded companies that manufacture the pilotless drone aircraft and sensors include Lockheed Martin Corp, Northrop Grumman Corp and L-3 Communications Holdings Inc.
Reporting by Phil Stewart; Editing by Eric Beech