Laptop computers captured from insurgents in Iraq contained software that enabled them to intercept video feeds from the unmanned drones that are seeing expanded use in the Middle East, according to the New York Times.
The drones, used by the U.S. military to monitor insurgent activities in Iraq and Afghanistan, also can be used to deliver air-to-surface missiles.
Thursday, the Wall Street Journal broke the story that insurgents were using Sky Grabber, open source software that costs $26, and a satellite dish to intercept the transmissions. Sky Grabber was designed to download satellite transmissions of movies and music.
Pentagon officials said transmissions from the drones can be encrypted, however, unencrypted feeds have been commonly used when troops on the ground with older laptops or handheld controllers need direct feeds from the drones or piloted aircraft. The military knew that the unencrypted signals could be intercepted, but made the decision not to encrypt local links for the sake of economy.
The U.S. military has been expanding its use of the video feeds to troops and is rapidly upgrading their equipment to take the encrypted transmissions.