A computer virus has infected the cockpits of America’s Predator and Reaper drones, logging pilots’ every keystroke as they remotely fly missions over Afghanistan and other warzones.
The virus, first detected nearly two weeks ago by the military’s Host-Based Security System, has not prevented pilots at Creech Air Force Base in Nevada from flying their missions overseas. Nor have there been any confirmed incidents of classified information being lost or sent to an outside source. But the virus has resisted multiple efforts to remove it from Creech’s computers, network security specialists say. And the infection underscores the ongoing security risks in what has become the U.S. military’s most important weapons system.
I certainly understand the tactical advantage of removing our soldiers from combat situations, but I fear what this technology implies. The drones are tools, which can be hijacked and reused – just like any other weapon of war. Or worse, they can be used to justify engaging in conflicts we otherwise normally wouldn’t partake in due to risk. But when we start to value our own lives so much more than our enemies that we put the destrictuive power in the hands of autonomous agents of war, and disconnect ourselves from the reality and consequences of our war machine, we open the door to our military system being hijacked from within, and fostering even more ‘shadow wars.’