The U.S. Government's unmanned Predator and Reaper drones, which reacked havoc on terrorist organizations in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan, have apparently been hit by a computer virus. According to reports, the virus infected software at the drones' command center at Creech Air Force Base in Nevada.
Military network security specialists aren't sure whether the virus and its so-called keylogger payload were introduced intentionally or by accident; it may be a common piece of malware that just happened to make its way into these sensitive networks, Wired.com reported.
Since the security of these unmanned killer machines has now been compromised, there may now be questions raised over both the accuracy of these vehicles and the safety of friendlies and civilans in a hostile situation. The U.S.'s use of drones has often been questioned, following several reports of inaccurate strikes.
For example, a strike in January, 2009 in Pakistan, saw a drone target the wrong house - the residence of a pro-government tribal leader in South Waziristan. The strike killed the leader's entire family, including three children, one of whom was only five-years-old. In keeping with U.S. policy, there was no official acknowledgment of the strike.
According to reports published in 2009 and 2010, the U.S. Government runs two drone programs. The one run by the United States military is the one that the public is more familiar with - the version that operates in recognized war zones like Iraq and Afghanistan.
The second version is completely covert and is run by the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). This is aimed at terror suspects around the world, including countries where U.S. troops are not based. No data on the second version is released ever by any security agency.
The military's version is operated from a station located in a Nevada desert. However, as expected, the location of the CIA version's base has been kept highly classified.
The CIA drone's operations were questioned after the assassination of Betullah Mehsud, when two reports from the Wall Street Journal (WSJ) and Times revealed deployment of hit squads and hiring of Blackwater as the drone operator. There was widespread anger after WSJ revealed that during the Bush administration the CIA had considered setting up hit squads to capture or kill al-Qaeda operatives around the world.
The furor grew when the Times reported that the CIA had turned to a private contractor to help with this highly sensitive operation - the controversial firm Blackwater, now known as Xe Services.
Members of the Senate and the House's Intelligence Committees demanded investigations of the program, which, they said, had been hidden from them.
Now with reports of this new virus attack, people staying areas commonly targeted by these drones (Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iraq, Yemen and Libya) will be praying more than ever that the unmanned aircrafts are as accurate as ever.