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How a Simple Web Search Uncovered a Top Military Secret

Real estate hunter exposes closely-guarded nuclear sub design

Dan Twohig, a ferry boat deck officer, was using Microsoft's Virtual Earth online mapping service to hunt for real estate near Bangor, Washington, where the U.S. Navy has a large Trident nuclear submarine base. He ended up exposing a closely-guarded military secret.

While using Virtual Earth -- which shows live satellite photos of nearly any area on earth -- Twohig caught an image of an Ohio-class submarine in dry dock. The image clearly shows the sub's propeller -- a crucial, secret part of its design that normally is draped with a tarp before any sub is hauled out of the water.

Twohig knew he shouldn't be seeing what he was seeing, so he wrote a blog about it on the Monster Maritime Website. Naval media were soon at his door, asking how he got the photos.

It turns out the photos didn't come from a satellite at all, but from airplane photos purchased and posted by Virtual Earth. Twohig has been sharply criticized for posting the photos, but nearly two months after he first posted them, they can still be found on Virtual Earth.

The situation has sparked a controversy over whether online mapping services should be allowed to photograph military installations, but enterprises note: If you've got something to hide outside, it might be a good idea to cover it up. The next real estate hunter might be looking in your area.

— Tim Wilson, Site Editor, Dark Reading

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