Sensitive US Air Force documents have leaked onto the dark web as part of an attempted sale of drone manuals.
Threat intel firm Recorded Future picked up on an auction for purported export-controlled documents pertaining to the MQ-9 Reaper drone during its regular work monitoring the dark web for criminal activities last month. Recorded Future’s Insikt Group analysts, posing as potential buyers, said they’d engaged the newly registered English-speaking hacker before confirming the validity of the compromised documents.
Further interactions allowed analysts to discover other leaked military information available from the same threat actor. The hacker claimed he had access to a large number of military documents from an unidentified officer.
These documents included a M1 Abrams tank maintenance manual, a tank platoon training course, a crew survival course, and documentation on improvised explosive device mitigation tactics.
Two years ago researchers warned that Netgear routers with remote data access capabilities were susceptible to attack if the default FTP authentication credentials were not updated
The hacker first infiltrated the computer of a captain at 432d Aircraft Maintenance Squadron Reaper AMU OIC, stationed at the Creech [Air Force Base] in Nevada, and stole a cache of sensitive documents, including Reaper maintenance course books and the list of airmen assigned to Reaper [Aircraft Maintenance Unit]. While such course books are not classified materials on their own, in unfriendly hands, they could provide an adversary the ability to assess technical capabilities and weaknesses in one of the most technologically advanced aircrafts.
The captain, whose computer had seemingly been compromised recently, had completed a cybersecurity awareness course, but he did not set a password for an FTP server hosting sensitive files. This allowed the hacker to easily download the drone manuals, said the researchers. The precise source of other the other dozen or so manuals the hacker offered for sale remains undetermined.
The hacker let slip that he was also in the habit of watching sensitive live footage from border surveillance cameras and airplanes. “The actor was even bragging about accessing footage from a MQ-1 Predator flying over Choctawhatchee Bay in the Gulf of Mexico.”