Sometimes it’s not counter-intuitive

Bruce Schneier writes that it’s reasonable for unmanned drones to broadcast unencrypted video streams, because

  1. the video stream is not that useful to enemies, and
  2. given that many people need access to the video feed, the key distribution problem would be very difficult to manage, and some allies could be severely handicapped if they happened not to have the key.

So, Bruce is typically fantastic at finding those interesting areas of security where the answer is counter-intuitive. But huh? How can both of those points be true? If the video stream is valuable to allies, then I’m guessing it’s valuable to enemies.

But let’s say that, somehow, these contradictory points are, in fact, both true.

There isn’t a key management problem here. The command-and-control signal is already encrypted and authenticated, so the video feed could be encrypted via the same exact route back to the home base (which needs to happen anyways so the NSA pilots can, you know, pilot), at which point it is decrypted and can be syndicated to allies, troops on the ground, commanders, etc… I just don’t see the argument for the signal to be directly received by local troops, when the one person who needs the signal the most anyways is already sitting thousands of miles away.

Bruce is right that key management is often a very complicated problem. But I just don’t see how it’s relevant in this case.