Global cyber defense experts take on hackers

Senior executive from US software co. tells 'Post' defense firms are in race to identify vulnerabilities that allow hackers access.

May 2, 2013 11:58
1 minute read.
IDF soldiers engaged in cyber security

IDF soldiers engaged in cyber security 370. (photo credit:


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Defense firms and armies around the world are in a race against time to identify vulnerabilities that allow hostile hackers to gain access to a variety of military platforms, such as drones and missiles, senior American executives from the Wind River computer systems company told The Jerusalem Post on Wednesday.

Wind River, whose global customers include the largest Israeli defense suppliers and US companies that make drones for the US Marines and Air Force, offers an operating system called VxWorks to control aerospace and defense platforms.

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Its operating system was also employed by NASA to control the Curiosity Mars Rover.

The executives, who were in Tel Aviv Wednesday for a defense conference, noted with concern the extent of the threat to systems used by hi-tech militaries today.

"It's a large-scale problem, and it's so pervasive. There is no silver bullet... there's no one thing to do to fix the problem," said Joe Wlad, senior director of Vertical Marketing.

"The hacker will say, I know what this system is supposed to do. But I want to know what more it can do," he said.

Hackers sponsored by hostile states, or even highly capable non-state hackers, can intercept wireless data links between drones and ground stations, even if the communication is encrypted, and redirect the vehicles, as Iran claimed to do with the American RQ-170 drone in 2011.

Other forms of attack might include a denial of service jamming broadcast of data links to drones, Wlad said.

"Unmanned vehicles are an area where security is a very big concern in the US," he said.

In order to reduce the chances of being hacked, militaries and defense firms need to watch out for functions that they didn't know their systems could perform, while also restricting and closely monitoring access to those systems, Wlad added.

Today, security risks are preventing the US Department of Defense from realizing its vision of a global military information grid, in which classified data is instantly passed over thousands of kilometers.

Wlad said the solution lies in constructing multiple layers of protection.

Currently, Wind River¹s security system against hackers, called VxWorks Mils, is being embraced by defense manufacturers in several countries, including in Israel, he added.

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