It turns out the video from Predator drones is a top-rated show among Iraqi insurgents. The drones use the same transmission technology as DirecTV, and because they are not equipped to handle encrypted signals insurgents can intercept their transmissions with a $30 Windows utility. And the Taliban appears to be doing the same thing in Afghanistan. According to CBS News:
When a Predator unmanned aerial vehicle, or UAV, is far from its base, terrain prohibits it from transmitting directly to its operator. Instead, it switches to a satellite link. That means an enterprising hacker can use his own satellite dish, a satellite modem, and a copy of the SkyGrabber Windows utility sold by the Russian company SkySoftware to intercept and display the UAV’s transmissions.
The Air Force became aware of the security vulnerability when copies of Predator video feeds were discovered on a laptop belonging to a Shiite militant late last year, and again in July on other militants’ laptops, the Journal reported. The problem, though, is that the drones use proprietary technology created in the early 1990s, and adding encryption would be an expensive task.
[Thanks to David Klaus for the story.]