An unnamed virus with a “keylogger” payload has been found in the computers used to operate U.S. Air Force’s Predator and Reaper remotely operated drones.
The discovery was made some two weeks ago, and the network security technicians and specialist at the Creech Air Force Base in Nevada – from where the drones are flown by pilots sitting behind a number of screens and a joystick in hand – have had a tough time restoring the systems to its original, uninfected state.
It is still unknown how the virus kept resurfacing on the systems, even after they have repeatedly been scrubbed clean. In the end, they had to resort to completely wiping the computer’s hard drives and rebuilding them from the ground up.
The technicians believe that it spread via removable hard drives, which are still used at the base for transporting video files of missions and map details between different computers, even though the practice has been banned by the military.
According to Wired and internal army sources, the virus is currently considered benign. There is no evidence that it accessed and forwarded remotely any confidential information, even though the possibility exists.
The drones have been flying all this while, and their missions weren’t compromised in any way.
Further details about the problem could not be had from the Air Force. “”We generally do not discuss specific vulnerabilities, threats, or responses to our computer networks, since that helps people looking to exploit or attack our systems to refine their approach,” said its spokesman.