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Another Israeli Drone Hacked, This Time by Hamas

hacked israeli drone

Hacked Israeli drone after it was brought down by Hamas

Palestinian militant sources in Gaza claimed today that it “shot down” an Israeli Skylark drone (manufactured by Elbit) flying over Gaza. This is a small, slow-flying vehicle used by field artillery units for advance reconnaissance.

Israel claimed the UAV had not been shot down, but had a “mechanical malfunction” which felled it.  This is the same excuse the IDF has used every one of the six times its drones have crashed over the past two years.

According to my highly-placed Israeli source, neither story is true.  The Gaza militants didn’t shoot down the drone nor did it suffer a technical mishap.  Instead, forces in Gaza took control of it by hacking the navigation system.  This is the same method my source has claimed in the past has led to a rash of failures of Israeli drone vehicles in the northern sector.  You’ll note that despite the fact that after past crashes flights were cancelled until the security breaches were fixed, that hasn’t stopped the hacks.

The source said:

“IDF always uses the same cover story – technical failure – but it doesn’t hold water anymore. So many technical failures in drones in such a short period of time?!”

If you examine the accompanying photo of the downed drone you will not see any damage to it.  It cannot have been shot down, otherwise it would’ve suffered extensive damage.  If, as Israel claims, the drone had a technical failure it likely would’ve crashed.  Israel would certainly not have wanted it to land in Gaza and would’ve destroyed it if possible.  The fact that the vehicle was captured apparently intact supports the idea that it was hacked and brought down safely by Palestinian militants.

My source believes (though he didn’t claim to have evidence to support this) that either Hamas or Islamic Jihad has secured the technical knowledge from either Iran or Hezbollah to sabotage Israel’s drone fleet.  If that’s the case, then this has to be a further worrisome development.  It means that Israel’s drones are vulnerable not just on the northern front (Lebanon, Syria) but in the south as well.

Considering that Hamas is in the deep freeze with both Iran and Hezbollah (which is allied to a Hamas enemy, Syria), it seems highly unlike either would share their hacking skills with that Palestinian group.  But Islamic Jihad has cultivated good relations with Iran since the break with Hamas.  Though I haven’t heard reports of IJ previously engaging in such a significant technical feat, it seems more likely for a group like IJ to have been the authors of this exploit.  If true, it would indicate that Iran has developed extensive technical and intelligence contacts with that group which led to this “success.”

You’ve got to feel some sympathy for Elbit, one of Israel’s most important military contractors.  Every time one of their drones is hacked the value of their drone sales worldwide plummets.  Though never fear, there is much more Elbit military hardware left to sell the world’s dictators and most corrupt governments!

UPDATE: My source reminded me that Hamas’ military-intelligence partners likely shared their knowledge about hacking Israeli drones long before they had the falling out referred to above.  This report (Hebrew) documents an earlier 2007 Hamas hack of an Israeli drone.  So it’s entirely possible that the Islamist group was the author of this attack.  Hamas’ media outlet says (Arabic) that it “took control” of the Israeli vehicle.  It doesn’t say that it shot it down.  This is further support for the hacking version of this story.

{ 27 comments… add one }
  • Joe Greek November 4, 2013, 2:39 AM

    You should stick to raising your kids and writing about harps.

    • Richard Silverstein November 4, 2013, 2:47 AM

      @ Joe Greek: You should mind your own friggin’ business. If I need advice from you, I’ll ask. Trust me, I won’t.

      • Joe Greek November 4, 2013, 6:24 AM


        • Richard Silverstein November 4, 2013, 1:03 PM

          @ Joe Greek: You deserve nothing less.

    • carl November 4, 2013, 5:22 AM

      joe greek, did you know that name calling is like dumber than dumb; I bet you didn’t even know that there is a dumber than dumb.

      richard, why didn’t you delete joe greek, on the grounds of vacuousity and bogosity.

      • Joe Greek November 4, 2013, 6:26 AM

        Thank you Carl, for sharing your thoughts.

        • carl November 4, 2013, 9:49 AM

          well, joe, keep digging deep in the sand; you’ll eventually find something; or so you think.

          • Richard Silverstein November 4, 2013, 1:12 PM

            @ carl: Yeah, Joe’s like the guy with the metal detector at the beach. If he keeps digging he’ll either find a penny or old dog shit.

        • Richard Silverstein November 4, 2013, 1:04 PM

          @ Joe Greek: Comments must be substantive & relate directly to the post on which they’re commenting. Follow & respect the comment rules.

          • Joe Greek November 4, 2013, 3:19 PM

            OK. I’ll relate.
            Your “Israeli Source” is making a fool of you.

          • Richard Silverstein November 4, 2013, 8:15 PM

            @ Joe Greek: You don’t need a source to make a fool of yourself. You do that so well without any help.

            That’s an unsubstantiated claim & comment rule violation. Your next violation will cause you to be moderated.

          • Joe Greek November 4, 2013, 11:26 PM

            This entire blog is “unsubstantiated”.

          • Richard Silverstein November 5, 2013, 1:03 AM

            @ Joe Greek: One thing I can substantiate is that you are now moderated. Next offense you’re outa here entirely.

          • Foo November 28, 2013, 9:33 AM

            Sorry, Richard – honest question here – if he had claimed “his highly-placed source in the Israeli defense mechanism” had told him such and such, would he still be violating the “unsubstantiated claim & comment” rule?



          • Richard Silverstein November 28, 2013, 12:50 PM

            @ Foo:

            honest question here

            “Honest?” Your question is “honest?” Really.

            if he had claimed “his highly-placed source in the Israeli defense mechanism” had told him such and such

            It is a moot question. He doesn’t.

          • Davey November 4, 2013, 6:26 PM

            Any proof, Joe? Anything other than wishful thinking?

  • guy November 4, 2013, 3:18 AM

    You are so anti-Israel, you do not let the facts confuse you. UAV drone fell there is operational only last six months. Every day, and I stress – every day, there are three of them, at least, in the air all day. Now do the math and you’ll see a technical fault and very reasonable in the circumstances. Which was more than that – it all day, and again – every day, they were to drop drone or two.
    So keep your theories, citing insiders alleged. Maybe you can convince those who blinded deep conviction. No one else

  • Noam November 4, 2013, 3:42 AM

    “if you examine the accompanying photo of the downed drone you will not see any damage to it.”

    apart from most of the wing missing you are right…

    link to elbitsystems.com
    link to elbitsystems.com

    • Ari Greenfield November 4, 2013, 8:11 AM

      @ Noam

      I tend to agree with you, the above pictures drone is missing at least half a wing, a prop and the tail. Furthermore, this is smaller handheld drone carried and controlled by troops in the field. This type of drone is relatively unsophisticated and it’s sensors beam data (video) directly to a local source in real time so very little data is stored on the device itself. (This model is similar to the US “Raven” UAV). This is a little simplistic, but it is essentially an upgraded model airplane, fitted with some cameras and controlled by someone on the ground in relative close proximity to the device. Given its size and mission, I do not believe it is uncommon for these devices to crash and if they do, there is very little the enemy can pull from them. Just my 2 cents.

      • Richard Silverstein November 4, 2013, 1:10 PM

        @ Ari Greenfield: I assure you Elbit Systems is not in the business of making “upgraded model airplanes.”

        • Ari Greenfield November 4, 2013, 1:46 PM

          Absolutely and I admitted my comparison was not perfect, but the fact remains the loss of a Skylark is far different than say the loss of a Hermes 900.

          • Richard Silverstein November 4, 2013, 2:54 PM

            Granted. But we don’t know what drones the IDF is using over Gaza. It may not use the most sophisticated ones.

  • pabelmont November 4, 2013, 6:54 AM

    If Hamas/IJ have used hacking methods learned in 2007 (perhaps learned from the North rather than by their own independent electronic inventiveness), then it follows that Elbit/Israel have not updated their methods sufficiently during that time to avoid this hacking.

    OTOH, if there have been very few drones hacked/forced-down in that time, then perhaps this has been a period of intense research and experimentation by Hamas/IJ and/or folks farther North — suggesting either that friendly collaborative communications continue or else that Hamas has a lot more independent expertise than some might have thought.

    I agree with RS that both these possibilities seem more reasonable than that so many drones were defective (suffered malfunctions causing them to land in pretty good shape). I imagine that the electronics will be subjected to close expert investigation.

    WONDER if this sort of knowledge could affect USA’s drone program.

  • Ya chose November 4, 2013, 7:21 PM

    If they could take over the navigation that they could not land it.
    To land it all you have to do is transmit a signal and it goes into a immediate controlled pretty much vertical descent. Which does not damage the UAV. this one has clearly been damaged.

    • Richard Silverstein November 4, 2013, 8:17 PM

      @ Ya chose: Leave it to Israelis to pretend to know things they know nothing about. Any proof you know anything about this subject? A “vertical descent” doesn’t damage the UAV? Really?

      • Ari Greenfield November 4, 2013, 10:10 PM

        I do no intend to speak for Ya chose but I will say that a vast majority of drones (especially the smaller ones like the Skylark) are engineered and designed to maintain a controlled descent in the event of engine failure or signal loss which means they essentially glide back to the ground and can be recovered with relatively minor damage. That said, if the signal was hacked, it’s entirely possible for the hacker to crash land the drone, either intentionally or accidentally.

      • Noam November 5, 2013, 3:15 AM

        @ Richard,

        “Leave it to Israelis to pretend to know things they know nothing about. Any proof you know anything about this subject? A “vertical descent” doesn’t damage the UAV? Really?”

        link to youtube.com
        landing capabilities at 1:20 minutes

        you are certainly not an expert on the subject (like on most military issues) – as proven above (twice) and cannot just dismiss what Ya chose wrote just because he is israeli without even doing a little bit of research (five seconds on google).

        in the picture we see clearly a damaged drone, whether it was hacked and crashed or just a mechanical failure crashed it is anyones guess – although i do agree that in the bigger UAV’s something fishy is going on.

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