Perimeter
12/18/2009
06:36 PM
Robert Graham
Robert Graham
Commentary
50%
50%

SkyGrabber Is For Porn, Not For Hacking Predator Drones

According to a sensationalized news story from late last week, Iraqi insurgents have intercepted live feeds from Predator drones. But the story's facts seem fishy: it claims the $26 off-the-shelf software product, SkyGrabber, was used to intercept live video feeds from U.S. Predator drones. But SkyGrabber does not have this ability.

According to a sensationalized news story from late last week, Iraqi insurgents have intercepted live feeds from Predator drones. But the story's facts seem fishy: it claims the $26 off-the-shelf software product, SkyGrabber, was used to intercept live video feeds from U.S. Predator drones. But SkyGrabber does not have this ability.SkyGrabber is a packet sniffer. Whereas a normal packet sniffer eavesdrops on an Ethernet or WiFi connection, SkyGrabber eavesdrops on satellite Internet downlinks. It uses a satellite video card (DVB-S) for your PC, one that you might otherwise use for video. SkyGrabber reconfigures the card to receive data downlinks instead (whether it's satellite video like DirecTV or BSkyB, or satellite Internet, the underlying technology is the same).

While sniffing the packets, SkyGrabber will see Internet downloads from thousands of users. It reassembles interesting downloads, such as music (MP3), pictures (JPG), and video (AVI, MPEG, MOV, etc.), back into the original files. Note that it's capturing Internet downloads, which may contain video, but not raw satellite video (in other words, video files within Internet traffic within video technology, not the raw videos you get from satellites).

This product is popular because it's free porn. Some of those thousands of simultaneous downloads will be from other satellite customers viewing porn sites.

While the program will capture video files being downloaded from the Internet, you can not watch them in real-time. Thus, it's not possible to use the program to watch a live video feed. While the above story may be generally correct, this specific fact is wrong.

The Predator (and other drone aircraft) uses different technology than satellites. You can't point your satellite tuner at a Predator drone and interpret the signal. You need products that are compatible with the Predator. Such products do exist; the Predator is made from commercial off-the-shelf products, so commercial, off-the-shelf products should be able to intercept the communication. People think there's something special about military technology, but it's almost always something normal (just wrapped in a steel box to protect it from stray bullets).

When details like this are warped to sensationalize a story, it's hard to put the facts back together again to figure out what really happened. We have to speculate. Maybe SkyGrabber is a misleading clue, also on insurgents' machines, but separate from other off-the-shelf hardware/software used to eavesdrop on Predators. Maybe they stole equipment (L3 ROVER III) that does this.

Or maybe there is a live video feed over the Internet. Predator drones send the videos back to the control center, which can redistribute them over private Internet links. Maybe they intended to distribute the videos to a contractor like Blackwater this way. I can imagine an Iraqi insurgent looking for porn accidentally finding Predator videos on a specific channel on a specific transponder of a specific satellite. In my experience, most hacking comes from accidental finds like this.

If it really was SkyGrabber that somehow grabbed the Predator videos, then there is a deeper problem. It means it had access to raw Internet packets. Those packets contain other information, as well, such as e-mail, passwords, and secret military orders. Those are things SkyGrabber ignores (it only keeps things related to porn), but other packet sniffers pay attention to. For example, my own "Hamster" sidejacking tool would be theoretically capable of getting into military e-mail this way.

If you want to try out SkyGrabber, then it probably won't work in the United States. I believe satellite Internet is probably encrypted here. However, they have a similar program called LanGrabber that works with Ethernet and WiFi. You should at least be able to run it on your own machine to sniff your own files as you surf the Internet. This should give you a good idea what SkyGrabber might find sniffing satellite Internet links.

Robert Graham is CEO of Errata Security. Special to Dark Reading

Comment  | 
Email This  | 
Print  | 
RSS
More Insights
Register for Dark Reading Newsletters
White Papers
Cartoon
Current Issue
Flash Poll
Title Partner’s Role in Perimeter Security
Title Partner’s Role in Perimeter Security
Considering how prevalent third-party attacks are, we need to ask hard questions about how partners and suppliers are safeguarding systems and data.
Video
All Videos
Slideshows
Twitter Feed
Dark Reading - Bug Report
Bug Report
Enterprise Vulnerabilities
From DHS/US-CERT's National Vulnerability Database
CVE-2011-4403
Published: 2015-04-24
Multiple cross-site request forgery (CSRF) vulnerabilities in Zen Cart 1.3.9h allow remote attackers to hijack the authentication of administrators for requests that (1) delete a product via a delete_product_confirm action to product.php or (2) disable a product via a setflag action to categories.ph...

CVE-2012-2930
Published: 2015-04-24
Multiple cross-site request forgery (CSRF) vulnerabilities in TinyWebGallery (TWG) before 1.8.8 allow remote attackers to hijack the authentication of administrators for requests that (1) add a user via an adduser action to admin/index.php or (2) conduct static PHP code injection attacks in .htusers...

CVE-2012-2932
Published: 2015-04-24
Multiple cross-site scripting (XSS) vulnerabilities in TinyWebGallery (TWG) before 1.8.8 allow remote attackers to inject arbitrary web script or HTML via the (1) selitems[] parameter in a copy, (2) chmod, or (3) arch action to admin/index.php or (4) searchitem parameter in a search action to admin/...

CVE-2012-5451
Published: 2015-04-24
Multiple stack-based buffer overflows in HttpUtils.dll in TVMOBiLi before 2.1.0.3974 allow remote attackers to cause a denial of service (tvMobiliService service crash) via a long string in a (1) GET or (2) HEAD request to TCP port 30888.

CVE-2015-0297
Published: 2015-04-24
Red Hat JBoss Operations Network 3.3.1 does not properly restrict access to certain APIs, which allows remote attackers to execute arbitrary Java methos via the (1) ServerInvokerServlet or (2) SchedulerService or (3) cause a denial of service (disk consumption) via the ContentManager.

Dark Reading Radio
Archived Dark Reading Radio
Join security and risk expert John Pironti and Dark Reading Editor-in-Chief Tim Wilson for a live online discussion of the sea-changing shift in security strategy and the many ways it is affecting IT and business.
UPCOMING!
Tuesday, June 2, 1pm EDT

How to Develop a Data Breach Incident Response Plan
FULL SCHEDULE | ARCHIVED SHOWS