Instant Guide

The 'nasty' computer virus infecting U.S. military drones

Unmanned aircraft used by the Air Force for espionage and combat have been stung by malware. Should we be worried?

A fleet of American Predator and Reaper drones has been infected with a computer virus, reports Noah Shachtman at Wired. The unmanned aircraft, which allow the military to attack targets without risking the lives of U.S. soldiers, have become a key tool in America's war on terrorism. Since President Obama took office, drones have killed more than 2,000 suspected militants and civilians. But now, it's the drones that are being targeted. Here's what you should know:

What does the virus do?
It's a "nasty" virus called a keylogger, says Max Eddy at Geekosystem. Pilots maneuvering drones issue commands remotely with keyboards and joysticks. And this virus can record every single keystroke. 

How dangerous is this? 
Because hackers might use any new information to refine their tactics, the Air Force doesn't publicly discuss attacks on its computer networks, says the Washington Post. But Wired's Shachtman says the infection has hit classified and unclassified machines at Creech Air Force Base in Nevada, which at least raises the possibility that secret data may have been captured — though no specific reports of classified information leaks have yet surfaced.

Where did the virus come from?
It's not clear if the virus infiltrated the military's computer systems through "a typical infection, or if it was specifically created to target the drone computer control system," says Dean Takahashi at Venture Beat. In other words: No one knows for sure how it got there.

What now?
Computer specialists at Creech are still trying to wipe the virus off their machines. Thus far, they've reportedly been unsuccessful, as the virus resists every effort to eliminate it. Officials are also in the process of erasing their internal hard drives to rebuild them from scratch — a rather "time consuming effort," says Shachtman.

Sources: Wired, GeekosystemVenture BeatThe Washington PostThe Atlantic

Recommended

Trump to spearhead 2024 campaign with stops in New Hampshire and South Carolina
Former President Donald Trump.
Back on the Stage

Trump to spearhead 2024 campaign with stops in New Hampshire and South Carolina

At least 3 dead in California's 6th mass shooting in January
An LAPD squad car in Beverly Crest, Los Angeles in 2020.
More Violence

At least 3 dead in California's 6th mass shooting in January

Body cam footage of Tyre Nichols' death released by police
A screenshot from the body cam footage of Tyre Nichols' beating.
Horrific

Body cam footage of Tyre Nichols' death released by police

10 things you need to know today: January 28, 2023
Former President Donald Trump.
Daily briefing

10 things you need to know today: January 28, 2023

Most Popular

The big debate about alcohol
Alcohol.
In depth

The big debate about alcohol

Andrea Riseborough's Oscar nomination sparks Academy scrutiny
Andrea Riseborough
andrea fallborough?

Andrea Riseborough's Oscar nomination sparks Academy scrutiny

Former U.S. generals explain how U.S. and German tanks can help Ukraine
Leopard 2 battle tanks
Many tanks

Former U.S. generals explain how U.S. and German tanks can help Ukraine