August 5, 2011
Last week in Las Vegas during a Black Hat conference where former CIA and NSA boss Michael Hayden was called for a “digital Blackwater,” two “security researchers” unveiled a drone prototype capable of sniffing out Wi-Fi networks, intercepting cellphone calls, and launching denial-of-service attacks with jamming signals. It is called WASP. or Wireless Aerial Surveillance Platform.
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“At a cost of about $6,000, the two converted a surplus FMQ-117B U.S. Army target drone into their personal remote-controlled spy plane, complete with Wi-Fi and hacking tools, such as an IMSI catcher and antenna to spoof a GSM cell tower and intercept calls. It also had a network-sniffing tool and a dictionary of 340 million words for brute-forcing network passwords,” writes Kim Zetter for Wired.
According to researchers Mike Tassey and Richard Perkins, the spy and hacking drone was created to show what criminals, terrorists and others might also soon be using for their activities. Tassey, a security consultant to Wall Street and the U.S. intelligence community, said that if he thought up the drone, it was likely bad guys were doing the same.
“You don’t need a PhD from MIT to do this,” Perkins said, insinuating that even Muslim cave dwellers might design and use such a device.
More likely, the drone will be used by a “digital Blackwater” mentioned at the same conference by Hayden. It is obviously designed to monitor and take out domestic computer networks.
The military and intelligence agencies now routinely hack official terrorist enemies. In June, it was reported that British intelligence vandalized the roll-out issue of al-Qaeda’s online magazine, Inspire. “The head of the newly formed U.S. Cyber Command, Gen. Keith Alexander, argued that blocking the magazine was a legitimate counterterrorism target and would help protect U.S. troops overseas,” the Washington Post reported. “But the CIA pushed back, arguing that it would expose sources and methods and disrupt an important source of intelligence.”
Both al-Qaeda and the Taliban were created from the remains of the CIA’s Mujahideen army in Afghanistan after the defeat of the Soviets.
In July, the Taliban admitted their mobile phones, emails and a website were hacked into and messages posted reporting the death of the Taliban’s supreme leader, Mullah Mohammad Omar.
In 2009, the Pentagon announced it was working to shut down Pakistani radio stations, websites, and chat rooms.
Earlier this year, the Pentagon announced it will now consider cyber attacks acts of war. “A response to a cyber-incident or attack on the U.S. would not necessarily be a cyber-response. All appropriate options would be on the table,” said Pentagon spokesman Colonel Dave Lapan. “If you shut down our power grid, maybe we will put a missile down one of your smokestacks,” a Defense Department official told the Wall Street Journal in May.
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