Lethal US drone manual leaked on the dark web after IT security blunder

Hacker infiltrated Air Force network via Netgear router vulnerability

Sensitive documents for a US Air Force Reaper combat drone were put up for sale on the dark web after a hacker accessed the files via an unsecured Netgear router.

Recorded Future, a security intelligence provider, spotted the leaked material on the dark web during its attempted sale.

An English-speaking hacker claimed to have access to documents pertaining to the MQ-9 Reaper unmanned vehicle, which is regarded as one of the most advanced and lethal military technologies commissioned in the past two decades and is described as a "true hunter-killer" drone.

"While such course books are not classified materials on their own, in unfriendly hands, they could provide an adversary with the ability to assess technical capabilities and weaknesses in one of the most technologically advanced aircraft," Recorded Future's report noted on the incident.

The security authority, who contacted the thief, is working with law enforcement on the case, said that the perpetrator claimed to have hacked his way to the files via a search engine called Shodan, which allows users to search unsecured IoT devices.

A captain with the 432d aircraft maintenance squadron at Creech Air Force base in Nevada had failed to properly set the transfer protocol settings on his Netgear router, which allowed the hacker to extract the sensitive documents.

Ironically, one of the documents allegedly stolen was the captain's cyber awareness challenge training certificate of completion. Andrei Barysevich, a dark web expert at Recorded Future said that if the hackers claim is true then the captain could face an internal investigation. 

"Since the breach only affected a particular individual and unlikely was broader system compromise, the first step would be evaluating whether a personal or work computer was affected," he said. "If a captain indeed was using his personal computer, an investigation of a potential violation of established protocols for handling sensitive documents might be granted.

"Secondly, broader education of the U.S. Air Force personnel in security hygiene, including proper steps of securing wireless access points must be conducted."

Issues with Netgear routers go back as far as 2016 when security researchers at Carnegie Mellon University in Pennsylvania found eight models of the router had a security flaw. Hackers were able to gain access to a home network and any connected device with relative ease.

IT Pro has approached the Creech Air Force Base for comment.

Picture: Shutterstock

Featured Resources

The complete guide to changing your phone system provider

Optimise your phone system for better business results

Download now

Simplify cluster security at scale

Centralised secrets management across hybrid, multi-cloud environments

Download now

The endpoint as a key element of your security infrastructure

Threats to endpoints in a world of remote working

Download now

2021 state of IT asset management report

The role of IT asset management for maximising technology investments

Download now

Recommended

Ryuk behind a third of all ransomware attacks in 2020
Security

Ryuk behind a third of all ransomware attacks in 2020

29 Oct 2020
REvil hacking group says it has made more than $100m in a year
Security

REvil hacking group says it has made more than $100m in a year

29 Oct 2020
36 billion personal records exposed by hacks in 2020 so far
Security

36 billion personal records exposed by hacks in 2020 so far

29 Oct 2020
Trump website defaced in second successive cyber breach
Security

Trump website defaced in second successive cyber breach

28 Oct 2020

Most Popular

Do smart devices make us less intelligent?
artificial intelligence (AI)

Do smart devices make us less intelligent?

19 Oct 2020
Politicians need to stop talking about technology
Policy & legislation

Politicians need to stop talking about technology

21 Oct 2020
Best MDM solutions 2020
mobile device management (MDM)

Best MDM solutions 2020

21 Oct 2020