Cybersecurity update

Cybersecurity Update Military officers in 2004 raised the danger of video from drones being intercepted and doctored, but the Pentagon didn’t begin securing the signals — until 2009.

The Wall Street Journal reports today that senior U.S. military officers discussed the danger of Russia and China intercepting and doctoring video from drone aircraft in 2004, but the Pentagon didn’t begin securing the signals until this year.

The newspaper reported yesterday that insurgents in Iraq had intercepted video feeds from drones, downloading unencrypted communications from the unmanned planes. Insurgents in Iraq used software that can be purchased for as little as $25.95 to regularly capture drone video feeds.


Military leaders discussed the potential security shortfall of drone feeds in 2004 and 2005, but at the time, Pentagon officials weren’t concerned about adversaries intercepting those signals. The drones weren’t widely used and militants weren’t thought to be technically sophisticated.


Chris Painter, the White House acting senior director for cybersecurity, says the Obama administration isn’t missing a step in tackling key information security challenges, even without a permanent cybersecurity coordinator.

“It’s a mistake to think that without a coordinator we’re not making progress,” Painter told after his presentation at the Federal Chief Information Officers Council’s 2009 Federal Identity Management and Cybersecurity Conference on Tuesday. To conference attendees of federal infosec pros, Painter said: “I’ve been involved with cybersecurity for 20 years” – he prosecuted hacker Kevin Mitnick in the mid-1990s – “and I have never seen in my career so many people coming together with such a common purpose. It’s very heartening to me, and we’re making real substantial progress.”

President Obama’s Cyberspace Policy Review released in May outlined 10 near-term goals that the administration team has been addressing. The White House has established subcommittees to address those objectives that include enterprise architecture, civil liberties, education, international issues and research and development, Painter said.

Coordination, without a permanent cybersecurity coordinator, is well underway. Painter chairs weekly and biweekly meetings with key senior cybersecurity policymakers from various federal agencies, including those from Defense, Homeland Security and Justice departments to collaborate on cybersecurity. “We’re dealing with all the agencies,” he said. “This isn’t an issue that will be resolved overnight. A coordinator will add a lot to this effort, but we’re making progress on core issues. We’re not sitting around.”