Analysts wary of Iran’s spy drone hacking claims

December 17, 2011
FedCyber Wire, Incidents, Responses
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Reports that Iranian electronic warfare experts may have succeeded in intercepting and capturing a sophisticated U.S. spy drone were received with some skepticism by security analysts.

While it is certainly possible that the drone was electronically ambushed as reported, more details are needed to know what exactly might have happened to the RQ-170 Sentinel drone, they said.

story in the Christian Science Monitor this week reported that the recent U.S. spy drone captured by Iran may have been intercepted and tricked into landing in that country by Iranian electronic warfare experts.

The story quoted an unnamed Iranian engineer as saying that Iran was able to cut off the communications links to the Lockheed-Martin-made drone and reconfigure its GPS coordinates to trick it into landing in Iran.

The engineer was quoted as saying that Iranian engineers developed the attack by reverse-engineering U.S. drones that had been previously captured or shot down, and by taking advantage of the weak GPS navigation system.

John Pescatore, an analyst with market research firm Gartner, and a former analyst with the National Security Agency (NSA), said the supposed attack, while possible, was not plausible.