Skygrabber is a $26 piece of software designed to allow one to capture unencrypted video feeds from satellites. Skygrabber is typically used by people who want to get such material others are downloading without paying for it.
Skygrabber is also being used for a far more nefarious purpose. Iraq terrorists have been using Skygrabber to intercept video feeds from Predator drones, the better to find out what the Americans know about their movements. Apparently the US Military has known about this little bug since the 1990s, but until July, 2009, did not think that terrorists had the sophistication to take advantage of it.
One wonders how the US Military could think that the terrorists, who regularly use the Internet and satellite phones to aid in their jihad against the human race, would not figure this out. To be fair, someone else, the Russian makers of Skygrabber, figured it out and the terrorists simply learned to take advantage.
Presumably the US Military is feverishly trying to find a way to encrypt the signals sent by Predator drones to deny access to them from the very terrorists who are being searched for and tracked by the Predators. Someone should have figured out that sending signals “in the clear” as they say in the movies is only asking for trouble.
There is no evidence that the terrorists have learned to take remote control of Predators. Such a development would obviously be very serious indeed.
The Skygrabber problem illustrates a certain fact of modern war. Modern war is waged nut just with weapons that kill people and destroy things. Modern war is increasingly becoming an information war. The trick is to bend every effort to get information by our side, while denying information to the other side. Clearly the terrorists have scored a coup in that regard and the US Military needs to counter it as quickly as possible.
Predators and other drones have become crucial weapons in the War on Terror. Drones can cover wide expanses of territory, using sensors in various wavelengths to locate and quantify the enemy so that the destructive part of the military, from ground troops to air craft, can move in and deal with them. Drones armed with missiles can execute surgical strikes against terrorists almost the moment they are detected. Is an advantage that has proven decisive and needs to be protected at all costs.
Sources: Skygrabber, Official Site
Cheap software ‘helps Iraqi militants track US drones’, AFP, December 17th, 2009