Hacker has been trying to sell documents on MQ-9 reaper drone

A Reaper drone

An unidentified hacker has allegedly been trying to sell stolen US military documents on the dark web.

The documents were discovered online by security research firm Recorded Future who spoke with the hacker to confirm their validity.

The hacker accessed the material on the captain's computer using a vulnerability in Netgear routers.

Documents that could give an enemy clues into the potential weaknesses of the Pentagon's MQ-9 Reaper drone purportedly have been up for sale on the Internet, a cybersecurity research firm says, amid concerns about whether the US military is doing enough to protect its data.

Although the materials do not appear to be classified, the information was still prohibited from being "released to another nation without specific authority" and was intended for "military purposes only". In fact, he said, it appears the hacker did not fully understand what he had stolen. Barysevich says he is "pretty much 100 per cent certain" the documents being advertised for sale were genuine. "They have enough knowledge to realize the potential of a very simple vulnerability and use it consistently".

While the documents aren't confidential, they are still highly sensitive. The Air Force did not immediately respond to requests for comment. He ulimately lowered his price. "I expect about $150 or $200 for being classified information", reads a screenshot of the posting.

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In an attempt to make a quick sale, he was also "proactive in giving" samples to analysts, which in turn allowed them to determine whom the documents were stolen from. It is unclear, however, if any of the data was copied or shared. USA officials pointed the finger at China for that theft. That move ultimately cut off the hacker's access to the files. The firm said its researchers have a "high degree of confidence" the hacker is from South America, though it did not elaborate further, citing the ongoing investigation. As a result, they allegedly didn't download everything which was available until a buyer had been found.

Bleeping Computer reported that the issue with Netgear routers using default passwords has been known since 2016 when a security researcher raised the alarm about the oversight.

Thousands of routers are still potentially vulnerable to this sort of attack, based on a search of Shodan conducted by Ars-including 1,368 in the United States alone. Barysevich says the hacker scanned the Shodan search engine, which shows internet-connected devices, for Netgear routers that may not have had their default details updated. He then used the default password to gain access to the routers - and some were located at military facilities. It's a brute-force method with only one goal in mind: to find valuable data and exploit it.

"Another thing he [hacker] was claiming to have access to was a broad range of live CCTV cameras, including those installed on surveillance planes and across the US-Mexico border and checkpoints, highways, and the drone that surveys the Gulf of Mexico", Andrei Barysevich of Recorded Future told Wired.

"When we tried to replicate the same attack that he was doing, we identified more than 4,000 vulnerable systems", says Barysevich.

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