June 13th, 2002 02:09 AM
Hacker watches Nato spy pictures
Hacker watches Nato spy pictures
By Mark Urban
Newsnight's Diplomatic Editor
Nato surveillance flights in the Balkans are beaming their pictures over an
insecure satellite link - and anyone can tune in and watch their operations
The discovery was made last November by John Locker, a satellite enthusiast
in north west England.
John Locker tried to alert the US military
He told Newsnight that he spent months e-mailing and faxing US and other
Allied military officers to warn them of the dangers before finally deciding
to go public.
Our investigation produced responses from Nato and American spokesmen that
the pictures were unclassified. They said they would reveal nothing of value
to a potential enemy.
One officer even told me that the broadcasts contained no information about
the position or types of aircraft conducting the surveillance missions.
Watch and learn
Having reviewed many hours of pictures from recent operations, I can say
this is quite wrong.
The images contain a wealth of information
The symbols around the edge of the pictures show the aircrafts' position,
altitude and heading. Omitting this information would make the broadcasts
useless to Nato intelligence analysts.
What's more, regular watching of the satellite channels allows you to learn
much about the technical capabilities of sophisticated spy planes like the
P-3 Orion and unmanned drones such as the Hunter.
During broadcasts by these aircraft, the letters 'P-3' or 'Hunt' are
helpfully included on the bottom of the picture.
I have seen some of these aircraft operating during my reporting from Balkan
trouble spots, and would have assumed that the presence of aerial
surveillance was usually revealed by the sound of an aircraft or drone
Reviewing the Nato footage, it is apparent though that planes like the P-3
can track a target from up to 20 miles away, through cloud, at night.
Why is this secret trap door open ? Since official spokesmen will not even
concede there is a problem, it is hard to get them to discuss how it might
Instead contacts suggest that the timing of the unencrypted pictures' first
appearance, 11 November 2001 is significant.
America's response to the 11th September terrorist attacks was gearing up,
and surveillance of Afghanistan began soaking up all the available military
secure satellite channels.
The US military have not introduced encoding even of the type used by
Shunting the Balkan operations onto an insecure transmission was a matter of
priorities, say analysts. The problem is, that doing so endangers a whole
host of Nato operations ranging from hunting for Radovan Karadzic to
stopping Albanian guerrillas infiltrating into Macedonia.
It is surprising though that in all the months since John Locker started
warning people that the signals could be pulled down by anyone using amateur
equipment, the US military have not introduced encoding even of the type
used by commercial broadcasters.
The military procurement bureaucracy apparently cannot come up with a set
top decoding box quickly enough.
Who might be watching these transmissions, apart from retirees like Mr
Locker ? Last month Nato raided two Bosnian Serb military installations,
saying they were eavesdropping of the alliance's signals.
Those able to monitor the transmissions around the clock - like a military
intelligence department or guerrilla group - will learn much from them.
At the very least the broadcasts allow a Karadzic or a smuggler to check
before they step outside their front door whether any Nato surveillance
aircraft are in the sky and what they are doing.
June 13th, 2002 02:23 AM
I watched the UK's Newsnight program that this appeared upon. Hilarious, The geezer was not even a 'hacker', just a home satellite enthusiast who stumbled upon the unencrypted transmissions whilst messing about with his home digi box and dish.
Keyboard not detected. Press F1 to continue.
June 13th, 2002 02:26 AM
Thanks for information! Great thread.
[gloworange]Die, or surrender, either way won\'t work.[/gloworange]
June 13th, 2002 11:16 PM
I saw the pictures and it does not seem to be highly secure stuff. Perhaps after encrypting it, there will be less of an outcry. No biggie.
June 14th, 2002 01:40 AM
ty for the read and the link
By the sacred **** of the sacred psychedelic tibetan yeti ....We\'ll smoke the chinese out
The 20th century pharoes have the slaves demanding work