Attempted Sale of Reaper Drone Documents on Dark Web Thwarted

The MQ-9 Reaper drone waits in a hangar at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson Alaska

"I wouldn't say that they possess skills of highly advanced threat-actors", Andrei Barysevich, a researcher at Recorded Future, told Business Insider. While security firm Recorded Future didn't ascertain where the intruder secured this cache, they surmised it was stolen from the Pentagon or a US Army official.

"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 drone has been used for unmanned surveillance missions for the military and other organisations including border control.

For years, Netgear users have been warned to change their default password when installed because without a new one, anyone can get on the network.

According to Record Future's research, thousands of routers remain vulnerable to this kind of attack, despite public warnings from the company and internal military cybersecurity training.

Recorded Future says it engaged the hacker online and discovered that he used Shodan to hunt down specific types of Netgear routers that use a known default FTP password.

One of the files exposed was a certificate saying the captain had successfully completed cybersecurity training.

The hacker also reportedly was selling US military documents such as a tank operation manual and information on how to reduce the capabilities of improvised explosive devices.

According to Insikt's report, the team verified the documents after contacting the hacker. "We continue to assist law enforcement in their investigation".

All sorts of bad stuff - including personal information - is hawked through dark web bazaars but classified material is seldom offered.

The discovery of the hacker comes amid heightened concern about how military secrets may be insufficiently protected, as the Defense Department's inspector general has reportedly been investigating a major security breach when Chinese hackers allegedly stole information relating to submarine warfare, including plans to build a supersonic antiship missile. These included potential images from drones and technical documents for other military equipment.

Creating a monetary incentive to steal sensitive information on the US military could become risky pretty quickly. He doesn't know how much of the data was downloaded by the hacker as it was claimed the person had a poor internet connection and low bandwidth.

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

The hacker used the Shodan search engine to scan the internet for vulnerable devices, ultimately leveraging an easy-to-exploit vulnerability in Netgear routers that was publicized in 2016 to hack into the individual's system.

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".

It's unclear how thieves got hold of the second set of documents spoken of by Recorded Future - with secrets on how the USA military avoids IEDs and operates tanks.

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