WASHINGTON – A virus found to be infecting computers used to control U.S. drones flying in the Middle East “entered from the wild” and was not specifically targeted at the system, Gen. Robert Kehler, head of U.S. Strategic Command said Tuesday.
The virus hit computers at Creech Air Force Base in Nevada, as first reported Oct. 7 by Wired’s Danger Room blog. The Air Force initially refused to comment on the report based on unnamed sources, saying, “We generally do not discuss specific vulnerabilities, threats, or responses to our computer networks since that helps people looking to exploit or attack our systems to refine their approach.”
But heavy media coverage of the reported infection of computers that control drones– an iconic symbol of the war on terror – apparently caused Air Force officials to reconsider. On Oct. 13, they acknowledged a “credential stealer” virus had cropped up in the system.
Kehler said the virus had caused no operational problems, and only affected ground control computers, not those that control the drones in flight.
Kehler said investigators are still trying to determine how the system was infected.
The military must do better defending its computers so necessary capabilities aren’t lost, he said. “Perfect defense is probably not something we can achieve, but the idea of mission assurance is something we must achieve,” Kehler said.