I’m sure you’ve all heard this, but just in case you haven’t, the Internet is abuzz with reports that the Air Force’s UAV ground control systems (GCS) at Creech Air Force Base, Nev., have been infected by a computer virus. The virus, that’s apparently recording drone operators’ keystrokes, was detected about two weeks ago. While it hasn’t prevented the service from flying UAV missions, it has proven to be difficult to remove — Air Force technicians are having to completely wipe the GCS’ internal hard drives to get rid of the virus. Service officials still aren’t 100 percent sure how it penetrated Creech’s firewalls nor do they know where it came from. It may be a run of the mill computer virus that somehow made its way into the base’s systems or it may be a sophisticated cyber espionage tool specifically targeting the U.S.’ drone program — no one knows yet.
Keep in mind that UAV operators load external hard drives onto the GCS to upload maps and share images taken by the aircrafts’ sensors. The Air Force suspects that one of these hard drives was infected since many of the classified GCS are heavily defended against threats from unclassified networks. Needless to say, the service has put a a freeze on the use of external hard drives at its drone bases.
Creech is host to the Air Force’s UAV schoolhouse and units that operate the MQ-1 Predator and MQ-9 Reaper armed UAVs that are famously used for ISR and strike missions around the globe.
More details as the story, first reported by Wired, unfolds.