BBC's Newsnight reports on a massive security oversight that makes unencrypted NATO video surveillance available on the Internet
June 12, 2002 4:24 PM   Subscribe

BBC's Newsnight reports on a massive security oversight that makes unencrypted NATO video surveillance available on the Internet "Nato surveillance flights in the Balkans are beaming their pictures over an insecure satellite link - and anyone can tune in and watch their operations live," reports Mark Urban of BBC2's late-night news analysis show. Near-realtime footage of NATO surveillance operations in the Balkans is routinely gathered by spy planes and returned to base as an encrypted signal and then forwarded to intelligence facilities in the US. However, when they are beamed back to Europe for analysis at NATO headquarters, no encryption is used. It is possible to tune into and watch these live video feeds (complete with map references and information about the type of aircraft in use) and so, in theory, an unfriendly agency could use the pictures to see what troops are up to and who they are watching. How long before this loophole is acknowledged and closed? Or should all surveillance data be made ever more available to whoever wants it?
posted by hmgovt (13 comments total)
First, there is absolutely nothing in the linked article that says the surveillance video is 'available on the internet'. The way the link is worded makes it sound like live surveillance footage is somehow being webcast. (I hope this was just unintentional miswording and not an attempt to sensationalize.) Of course, the images being beamed over a nonsecure satellite frequency that satellite TV hobbyists (or worse) can access is bad enough. There's also actually nothing in the article that says where in the datastream the nonsecure connection is taking place, but the writeup assumes that it is while being sent to NATO HQ. Is there additional information on this that you've left unlinked?
posted by SenshiNeko at 5:26 PM on June 12, 2002

Finally, REALITY television.
posted by krisjohn at 6:20 PM on June 12, 2002

Or should all surveillance data be made ever more available to whoever wants it?

Um, no. No. And, SenshiNeko - unencrypted data travelling over ip or satellite in any form is basically as available as a 'webcast'. This is not good.
posted by GriffX at 6:51 PM on June 12, 2002

hmgovt, if you have some kind of relationship with this i-resign site, then it probably isn't a good idea to link to it in a post, especially since it has nothing to do with the first link. But you already knew that because you are one clever bastard.
posted by euphorb at 7:26 PM on June 12, 2002

lol nice job euphorb...
I was also wondering what the privacy article had to do with NATO video surveillance.
posted by yevge at 8:13 PM on June 12, 2002

"How long before this loophole is acknowledged and closed?"

How long before Fox News options the footage and devotes an entire prime time show to it?
posted by wfrgms at 8:33 PM on June 12, 2002

A more appropriate link about open-source intel would probably be The Federation of American Scientists ( who believe freely available intelligence will reduce conflict. You can find out just about anything you want to know concerning military equipment on the site.
posted by jamesstegall at 9:50 PM on June 12, 2002

More on this story from the Guardian newspaper.
posted by hmgovt at 2:48 AM on June 13, 2002

if you watched the report on newsnight you will know that the official american line is that the video feed is 'unclassified', which means that there is no problem. now move along, nothing to see here.
this is another example of how 'intelligence' and 'security' cannot be entrusted to technology, or technological superiority. that cannot last, no matter how much money it makes for a few people. as i have said before there is no 'peace through superior fire-power'.
the only route that i can see to worldwide trust and security would be communication and the mutual respect which would follow.
posted by asok at 2:57 AM on June 13, 2002

They could just ROT-13 the digital satellite stream.

And then DCMA the asses of those who dare circumvent the 'access control mechanism.'

Consider it an esaier way to root out latent terrorists.
posted by kfury at 8:47 AM on June 13, 2002

Not really talking about terrorists here - it's the entire Serbian state apparatus which is the problem. I remember hearing rumours about how a US Stealth plane was shot down - Serbian technicians found a way to detect the planes by looking for 'holes' in domestic and satellite TV signals. It didn't help that the USAF used the same routes in and out of Serbian airspace on each sortie. This is all reminiscent of the US colonel who inadvertently fed details of British troop numbers and movements to Rommel because he used insecure channel to communicate with Washington back in WWII. You people continually underestimate the opposition...
posted by hmgovt at 9:26 AM on June 13, 2002

Here's a longer version of Duncan Campbell's Guardian article:
War On Error: Live Pictures Taken by US Planes Were Freely Available (Center for Public Integrity)
Campbell is the investigative journalist who brought Echelon into the public eye.
posted by Owen Boswarva at 1:06 PM on June 13, 2002

small sidetrack:

An article on how the Serbs may have shot down the F-117 Stealth.
posted by MJoachim at 1:59 PM on June 13, 2002

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