Vault7 – Protego – Wikileaks – September 2017

Today, September 7th 2017, WikiLeaks publishes four secret documents from the Protego project of the CIA, along with 37 related documents (proprietary hardware/software manuals from Microchip Technology Inc.). The project was maintained between 2014 and 2015.

Protego is not the “usual” malware development project like all previous publications by WikiLeaks in the Vault7 series. Indeed there is no explicit indication why it is part of the project repositories of the CIA/EDG at all.

The Protego project is a PIC-based missile control system that was developed by Raytheon. The documents indicate that the system is installed on-board a Pratt & Whitney aircraft (PWA) equipped with missile launch systems (air-to-air and/or air-to-ground).

Protego consists of separate micro-controller units that exchange data and signals over encrypted and authenticated channels:

» On-board TWA are the ‘Master Processor’ (MP) and the ‘Deployment Box’. Both systems are layed-out with master/slave redundancy.

» The missle system has micro-controllers for the missle itself (‘Missle Smart Switch’, MSS), the tube (‘Tube Smart Switch’, TSS) and the collar (which holds the missile before and at launch time).

The MP unit receives three signals from a beacon: ‘In Border’ (PWA is within the defined area of an operation), ‘Valid GPS’ (GPS signal available) and ‘No End of Operational Period’ (current time is within the defined timeframe for an operation). Missiles can only be launched if all signals received by MP are set to ‘true’. Similary safeguards are in place to auto-destruct encryption and authentication keys for various scenarios (like ‘leaving a target area of operation’ or ‘missing missle’).

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