Stolen USAF drone documents appear for sale on the dark web

12 July, 2018, 15:42 | Author: Myra Gill
  • MQ-9 Reaper docs sale

The documents reportedly were associated with the USAF's MQ-9, an unmanned aerial vehicle more commonly known as a UAV or drone. According to Recorded Future, the documents were most likely taken from a U.S. Army staffer.

"The same tactics our military are using in Iraq, Afghanistan, were being offered for sale on the dark web", said Barysevich, who said he found a posting on a hacking forum offering to sell documents from the U.S. Air Force with information on the MQ-9 Reaper drone for just $200. The Reaper drones are used by the US Air Force, the US Navy, the CIA, NASA and the Customs and Border Protection agencies - as well as other foreign militaries. Maintenance manuals and a list of airmen who were assigned to work on repairs were allegedly being sold among a cache of classified data. It turns out they simply used Shodan to look for Netgear routers that use default FTP passwords.

The hacker accessed the material on the captain's computer using a vulnerability in Netgear routers. "Another thing he [the hacker] was claiming to have access to was a broad range of live CCTV cameras, including those installed on surveillance planes and across the US-Mexico border and checkpoints, highways, and the drone that surveys the Gulf of Mexico", Barysevich says.

One of the files exposed was a certificate saying the captain had successfully completed cybersecurity training. The documents also included information on deployment tactics for improvised explosive devices (IEDs), M1 ABRAMS tank operation manual, training and survival manual, and tank platoon tactics.

A hacker penetrated an Air Force captain's computer to steal sensitive information about USA military drones, according to new research by cybersecurity investigators at Recorded Future, a threat intelligence firm. The firm posed as a potential buyer and swapped messages with the hacker, at times receiving screenshots of the purported stolen documents, according to the Wall Street Journal.

The company said it was cooperating with law enforcement's investigation of the data breach. They then tried sell them on the dark web for as little as $150.


Creating a monetary incentive to steal sensitive information on the USA military could become unsafe pretty quickly. Barysevich says the hacker is believed to have been on a limited internet connection and not to have downloaded the full set of documents himself.

The incident is the latest case of insecure routers leading to security vulnerabilities.

To find the vulnerable router, the hacker used a service called Shodan which is essentially a search engine for finding internet connected devices around the world.

Once a device has been located it can be accessed remotely and the File Transfer Protocol system could be accessed using the username "admin" and password "password".

"I've been personally investigating the dark web for nearly 15 years, and this is the first time I've uncovered documents of this nature", wrote Andrei Barysevich, director of advanced collection at Recorded Future, in his report. This is down from 6,000 when the problem was first reported in 2016. Shodan searches only show devices that are now active and connected to the internet.

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