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I read several articles saying some of the command and control fleet for the US robotic attack planes may have been infected with a virus.

Does this command and control system communicate with the planes using the internet on a giant VPN of sorts? What systems are in place to prevent these robot planes from becoming controlled by someone else?

Please limit discussion to unclassified info to keep everyone out of trouble.

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Unclassifiedly, this would probably stay in the realm of speculation or generalities. Though it is very interesting! – AviD Feb 23 '12 at 22:29

See: wiki on SIPRNet and NIPRNet.

Essentially the two are airgapped, and should not be interconnected at any point. In fact, measures are taken to prevent that very thing. Nevertheless humans are on both networks, which means the results are mixed.

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So would it be possible for an infected host inside the SIPRNet make a connection to the NIPRNet? – steampowered Oct 12 '11 at 20:40
Not without a human doing something outside the operational parameters of either network. (IE: using a sneakernet) – Ori Oct 12 '11 at 20:49
Ok, so after the sneakernet transfer, then it can happen? – steampowered Oct 12 '11 at 21:03
You could get malware onto an airgapped network via sneakernet, but you can't open up an outside connection if the network isn't physically connected. The malware could install a keylogger or rootkit but it has no physical path to any external hosts. – ConcernedOfTunbridgeWells Oct 18 '11 at 7:14

In fall 2011 Windows computers used load and store data associated with unmanned ariel vehicles at Indian Springs Air Force Base were infected with key loggers.

It appears to me (former USAF navigator) that the infected computers were used for mission planning, not for directly controlling the aircraft. It's very possible that these computers could access the civilian internet. In any case, Stuxnet showed how to extract captured data from an air gapped facility. The Air Force has to assume that data entered in to the infected computers has been compromised.

The other known security fiasco associated with the Air Force UAV program was the fact that the UAV video downlinks were for a long time unencrypted and could be monitored with civilian TV satellite receivers. Rumor has it this vulnerably was discovered during interviews with captured Iraqi insurgents.

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It's amazing the video was unencrypted for so long. They spend billions building heavy doors manned with machine guns, then they send data unencrypted .... Wow. – steampowered Feb 5 '13 at 19:31

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