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U.S. Drone Fleet Infected With a Virus; the Future of Warfare?

Updated on November 3, 2017

A computer virus has infected the cockpits of the U.S. military drone fleet at Creech Air Force Base in Nevada, Wired.com reported.

The virus has not disrupted drone pilots air navigation in their mission overseas, however, it has recorded their every move, and this could potentially be transmitted over the internet to someone outside the military chain of command, meaning countries like Russia or China could have access to one of Americas drone cockpits.

And although the virus was removed, it keeps reappearing, “we keep wiping it off, and it keeps coming back,” says a source familiar with the network infection.

The virus is said to have spread through removable drives which are used inside the cockpits to load map updates and move mission videos from one computer to another.

However, security specialist are uncertain if the virus was started intentionally by someone outside the military or if it was a common malware that incidentally made its way through the military’s heavily guarded networks.

While this story went unreported by most news stations, it’s actually of greater significance than one might think; “the infection underscores the ongoing security risks in what has become the US military’s most important weapons system,” Wired.com writes.

The “most important weapon” which has only led to a devastating number of civilian deaths, destroyed families and towns, and created enemies faster than the U.S. can kill them.

Yet having remotely piloted aircrafts at risk of being hacked means they could be taken control of by someone other than the pilots in the cockpit, and this means it can be rerouted while in the air, striking places other than its intended target, thus creating more opportunities for civilian deaths, putting everyone in the world in danger of being bombed by a drone.

This raises the bigger question - will the future of warfare be governments trying to hack each other’s drones? While also having to worry about non state actors interfering?

This is just the beginning, although the hackers didn’t actually manage to take control and manipulate the pilots flight path, the next step will be hacking the drones while their in the air, taking full control of it and bombing different targets. As online hackers continue to learn new ways of breaking into government systems, this capability is right around the corner.

Although President Obama oversaw a total of 563 drone strikes over Pakistan, Somalia, and Yemen, in effect killing between 384 and 907 civilians in those countries (undercounting the civilian deaths to 64 in order to hide damning reports, such as the one by The Intercept which showed that nearly 90 percent of people killed in drone strikes in Afghanistan “were not the intended targets” of the attacks), the campaign for more drone strikes is now more active than ever. With Trump looking to loosen Obama’s limits on drone strikes and with the Administration saying they want to increase CIA drone strikes, it seems like the destructive paranoid war on drone hacks is a likely bet for the future.

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