Stolen sensitive drone files sold on dark web

MQ-9 Reaper docs

A senior researcher at Recorded Future, the cybersecurity firm that found the documents for sale, told the Wall Street Journal that the success of an apparent amateur raises concerns about what more-sophisticated hackers could be stealing from the military.

The training and maintenance material is not classified but is considered sensitive information and "furnished upon condition that it will not be released to another nation" without appropriate Defense Department authority. In fact, he said, it appears the hacker did not fully understand what he had stolen.

"Not only is it super low and super cheap, we've never seen documents of this magnitude being sold on the Dark Web", he says. The hacker told researchers they enjoyed watching drone footage in their spare time when not looking for their next victim, according to the new report. Especially when simple hacks leave the military vulnerable.

Analysts say they have a "good level of confidence" of the hacker's identity, and are coordinating with Homeland Security officials in their investigation.

This story was updated at 9:46 a.m. Wednesday to reflect comment from the Air Force.

The hacker may not have been fully aware of the nature of the information he possessed. He ulimately lowered his price.

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The stolen documents themselves are not classified, but could still pose a security threat if they fell into the wrong hands. It is unclear, however, if any of the data was copied or shared. "He was attempting to get rid of it as soon as possible".

After Barysevich's team alerted U.S. officials, the vulnerable computers were taken offline. That move ultimately cut off the hacker's access to the files.

The hacker, who is believed to live in a poverty-stricken country in South America, said his internet connection was slow and that, because his bandwidth was limited, he did not download as much information as he had hoped to, prior to finding a willing buyer. While this bypass was first discovered two years ago, some military computers were still vulnerable as two members of the USA military connected to the internet through Netgear routers that used the default log-in settings (username "admin" -password "password") for file sharing. Vulnerable routers can be spotted with tools like Shodan, a popular internet-of-things search engine, Recorded Future warns.

"The same manual which cost decades to compile, to learn, all of the knowledge we have learned was now for sale", Barysevich said. "And many of them appear to be operated by government employees".

After his Shodan search, hacker discovered that some of these vulnerable routers were located in military facilities that he then got access to using this FTP password. It's a brute-force method with only one goal in mind: to find valuable data and exploit it.

It's unclear how thieves got hold of the second set of documents spoken of by Recorded Future - with secrets on how the U.S. military avoids IEDs and operates tanks. According to the company, the "threat actor" said there was another data breach, which involved "a large number of military documents" stolen from an unknown (or, at least, unidentified) military officer.

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