Despite the sensitive nature of their operations, computer security hasn't been a hallmark of drone operations. In 2009, for example, the military seized the laptop of a Shiite militant in Iraq and found days of video footage intercepted from drones flying missions in the region. Since video feeds from the drones are unencrypted, the military explained, it's relatively easy for the militants to snatch them from the air with software that can be purchased off the Internet for $26.
Since the terrorist attacks on the United States on Sept. 11, 2001, drones have increased in importance as a tactical weapon. In the 10 years following 9/11, 30 CIA drones have been attributed with the deaths of more than 2000 militants and civilians. Another 150 Predator and Reaper drones operated by the Air Force patrol the skies over Iraq and Afghanistan. U.S. drones were also used to support NATO air attacks in Libya and were responsible for the death last week of Anwar al-Awlaki, dubbed by some as the "Osama of the Internet."
[Updated Oct 7, 4:04 PM with additional information]
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