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The Military

KGB Software Almost Triggered War In 1983 (arstechnica.com) 198

An anonymous reader writes: Who here remembers WarGames? As it turns out, the film was a lot closer to reality than we knew. Newly-released documents show that the Soviet Union's KGB developed software to predict sneak attacks from the U.S. and other nations in the early 1980s. During a NATO wargame in November, 1983, that software met all conditions necessary to forecast the beginning of a nuclear war. "Many of these procedures and tactics were things the Soviets had never seen, and the whole exercise came after a series of feints by U.S. and NATO forces to size up Soviet defenses and the downing of Korean Air Lines Flight 007 on September 1, 1983. So as Soviet leaders monitored the exercise and considered the current climate, they put one and one together. Able Archer, according to Soviet leadership at least, must have been a cover for a genuine surprise attack planned by the U.S., then led by a president possibly insane enough to do it." Fortunately, when the military exercise ended, so did Soviet fears that an attack was imminent.
The Military

Turkey Downs Allegedly Intruding Russian Fighter Near Syria Border (reuters.com) 583

jones_supa writes: Turkish fighter jets shot down a Russian Sukhoi SU-24 fighter near the Syrian border on Tuesday after repeated warnings over airspace violations. Moscow said it could prove the jet had not left Syrian air space. Footage from private Turkish broadcaster Haberturk TV showed the warplane going down in flames in a woodland area. Separate footage from Turkey's Anadolu Agency showed two pilots parachuting out of the jet before it crashed. A Syrian rebel group sent a video to Reuters that appeared to show one of the pilots immobile and badly wounded on the ground and an official from the group said he was dead. This is the first time a NATO member's armed forces have downed a Russian military aircraft since the 1950s. The Guardian is following the developments with live updates. Also covered by the BBC, which notes Russian aircraft have flown hundreds of sorties over northern Syria since September. Moscow says they have targeted only "terrorists", but activists say its strikes have mainly hit Western-backed rebel groups. Turkey, a vehement opponent of Syria's president, has warned against violations of its airspace by Russian and Syrian aircraft. Last month, Ankara said Turkish F-16s had intercepted a Russian jet that crossed its border and two Turkish jets had been harassed by an unidentified Mig-29.
The Military

Satellite Wars (ft.com) 98

schwit1 writes: Sixty years after the space race began, an orbital arms race is again in development. Military officials from the U.S., Europe and Asia confirm in private what the Kettering Group and other amateur stargazers have been watching publicly. Almost every country with strategically important satellite constellations and its own launch facilities is considering how to defend — and weaponize — their extraterrestrial assets. "I don't think there is a single G7 nation that isn't now looking at space security as one of its highest military priorities and areas of strategic concern," says one senior European intelligence official.

The U.S. is spending billions improving its defenses — primarily by building more capacity into its constellations and improving its tracking abilities. A $900m contract was awarded to Lockheed Martin in 2014 to develop a radar system capable of tracking objects as small as baseballs in space in real time. But there are also hints that the U.S. may be looking to equip its satellites with active defenses and countermeasures of their own, such as jamming devices and the ability to evade interceptions. A purely offensive anti-satellite program is in fast development as well. High-energy weapons and maneuverable orbiters such as space planes all open the possibility of the U.S. being able to rapidly weaponize the domain beyond the atmosphere, should it feel the need to do so.

The Military

ISIS's Hunt For a Bogus Superweapon 330

schnell writes: The New York Times Magazine has a fascinating story about ISIS efforts to get their hands on a mysterious and powerful superweapon called Red Mercury. The problem is that by consensus among scientific authorities, Red Mercury doesn't exist. And yet that hasn't stopped the legend of Red Mercury, touted by sources from Nazi conspiracy theorists to former Manhattan Project scientists, as having magical properties. Middle East weapons traders have even spun elaborate stories for its properties (ranging from thermonuclear explosive properties to sexual enhancement) and origins and sources (from Soviet weapons labs to Roman graveyards). What can account for the enduring myth of Red Mercury — is it rampant scientific illiteracy, the power of urban legend and shared myth, or something else?

ULA Concedes GPS Launch Competition To SpaceX (spacenews.com) 55

schwit1 writes: ULA has decided against bidding on a military GPS launch contract, leaving the field clear for SpaceX. "ULA, which for the past decade has launched nearly every U.S. national security satellite, said Nov. 16 it did not submit a bid to launch a GPS 3 satellite for the Air Force in 2018 in part because it does not expect to have an Atlas 5 rocket available for the mission. ULA has been pushing for relief from legislation Congress passed roughly a year ago requiring the Air Force to phase out its use of the Russian-made RD-180 engine that powers ULA's workhorse Atlas 5 rocket."

This decision might be a lobbying effort by ULA to force Congress to give them additional waivers on using the Atlas 5 engine. Or they could be realizing they wouldn't be able to match SpaceX's price, and decided it was pointless wasting time and money putting together a bid. Either way, the decision suggests ULA is definitely challenged in its competition with SpaceX, and until it gets a new, lower cost rocket that is not dependent on Russian engines, its ability to compete in the launch market will be seriously hampered.


Could a Change In Wording Attract More Women To Infosec? (csoonline.com) 291

itwbennett writes: "Information security is an endeavor that is frequently described in terms of war," writes Lysa Myers. "But what would the gender balance of this industry be like if we used more terms from other disciplines?" Just 14 percent of U.S. federal government personnel in cybersecurity specialties are women, a number startlingly close to the 14.5 percent of active duty military members who are women (at least as of 2013). By comparison, women are well represented in other STEM fields: "As of 2011, women earn 60 percent of bachelor-level biology degrees. Women also earn between 40 and 50 percent of chemistry, mathematics and statistics, and Earth sciences undergraduate degrees," writes Myers. Why the difference? Myers points to a comment from someone who taught a GenCyber camp for girls: "He found that one effective way to get girls to feel passionate about security was to create an emotional connection with the subject: e.g. the shock and distress of seeing your drone hacked or your password exposed," writes Myers.
The Military

Anonymous Vows Revenge For ISIS Paris Attacks 488

An anonymous reader writes: As usual, Anonymous members are quicker to respond to threats than investigators and have announced #OpParis as revenge for the Paris attacks. Their action is similar to #OpISIS from this spring, launched after the Charlie Hebdo attacks. Previously Anonymous ousted thousands of ISIS Twitter accounts in #OpISIS. In a more conventional response, the government of France has been bombarding ISIS positions in Syria with airstrikes, and hunting for suspect Salah Abdeslam in connection with Friday's killings.

Brazilian Army Gets Hacked After Allegations of Cheating In Security Cyber-Games 34

An anonymous reader writes: Anonymous hackers breached the servers of the Brazilian Army, and later leaked the personal details of around 7,000 officers. The incident seems to stem from CTF games where security teams try to hack each other. Apparently the Brazilian Army team used forbidden tactics to win its games, and the hackers responded by doxxing some of their officers. A snippet: According to the hackers' statement, the Brazilian Army team used a forbidden technique to win their CTF matches in a local CTF tournament. The technique they used is WiFi deauth, a simplistic attack that jams WiFi traffic, incapacitating the other team. The hackers also seemed upset at the fact that the Brazilian army was bragging about their accomplishments, being particularly angry at the usage of the word "elite."

Laser Strikes On Aircraft Increasing In Frequency (usatoday.com) 161

puddingebola writes: The FAA is reporting a record number of laser strikes on aircraft for 2015. From the article: "The Federal Aviation Administration recorded 5,352 laser strikes through Oct. 16, up from 2,837 for all of 2010. ... Some airports have reported more than 100 laser strikes this year: Los Angeles had 197; Phoenix had 183; Houston had 151; Las Vegas had 132, and Dallas-Fort Worth had 115. On July 15, during a 90-minute period, 11 airliners and one military aircraft reported laser strikes near New York City-area airports. Those incidents remain under investigation by the FAA, FBI and New Jersey state police."
The Military

DARPA Is About To Start Testing an Autonomous, Submarine-Hunting Drone (vice.com) 84

merbs writes: Early next year, DARPA will begin testing a 132-foot unmanned submarine-hunting ocean drone in San Diego. Slapped with the cumbersome title of Anti-Submarine Warfare Continuous Trail Unmanned Vessel (ACTUV), it's designed to do exactly that: track stealth submarines from the surface, quietly and autonomously. "The 132-foot-long, 140-ton ACTUV is being built by Leidos at the Vigor Shipyard [formerly Oregon Iron Works] in Clackamas, Ore. The vessel is about 90 percent complete. The hardware of the systems is complete, with software being engineered presently." Using one of these drones would cost "about $15,000 to $20,000 per day, compared with a destroyer that costs about $700,000 per day to operate."

Stanford Creates Tricorder-Like Devices For Detecting Cancer and Explosives (stanford.edu) 34

An anonymous reader writes: A new technology has promise to safely find buried plastic explosives and maybe even spot fast-growing tumors. The technique involves the clever interplay of microwaves and ultrasound to develop a detector like the Star Trek tricorder. The careful manipulation of two scientific principles drives both the military and medical applications of the Stanford work. First, all materials expand and contract when stimulated with electromagnetic energy, such as light or microwaves. Second, this expansion and contraction produces ultrasound waves that travel to the surface and can be detected remotely.

In a potential battlefield application, the microwaves would heat the suspect area, causing the muddy ground to expand and thus squeeze the plastic (abstract). Pulsing the microwaves would generate a series of ultrasound pressure waves that could be detected and interpreted to disclose the presence of buried plastic explosives. Solving the technical challenges of detecting ultrasound after it left the ground gave the Stanford researchers the experience to take aim at their ultimate goal – using the device in medical applications without touching the skin.


China, Russia Try To Hack Australia's Upcoming Submarine Plans 83

An anonymous reader writes: Chinese and Russian spies have attempted to hack into the top secret details of Australia's future submarines (paywalled), with both Beijing and Moscow believed to have mounted repeated cyber attacks in recent months. One of the companies working on a bid for Australia's new submarine project said it records between 30 and 40 cyberattacks per night.

What Happened To Passenger Hovercraft? (bbc.com) 69

An anonymous reader writes: Although much has been written about hoverboards lately, hovercraft have largely faded from public imagination, BBC News reports. The Bond-esque 1960s sensation proved too noisy to roam inland rivers regularly, while too small to compete at sea with a new generation of conventional mega-ferries and high-speed car-carrying catamarans. Military aside, only a 10-minute English route and a Sino-Russian river border crossing keep hopes air-cushioned nowadays, while civilian operators wait for electric propulsion to become practical, aiming to reduce airplane-like noise levels and excessive fuel costs with new technology.

Emerging Technologies and the Future of Humanity (sagepub.com) 120

Lasrick writes: Brad Allenby, Lincoln Professor of Engineering and Ethics and founding chair of the Consortium for Emerging Technologies, Military Operations and National Security at Arizona State University, delivers a fascinating examination of resistance to technological developments over time. Allenby starts by breaking down discussions into 3 categories, and then focuses on the third: the "apocalyptic" discussions. "[T]echnological evolution is accelerating, which has significant implications. Past rates of technological change were slow enough that psychological, social, and institutional adjustments were possible, but today technology changes so rapidly that technology systems decouple from governance mechanisms of all kinds. All these factors, operating together, synergistically increase the impact, speed, and depth of change.
The Military

Experimental Air Force Rocket Launch Fails (theverge.com) 60

schwit1 writes: An experimental Air Force rocket, dubbed Super Strypi, failed seconds after launch. The launch was part of the Air Force's Operationally Responsive Space (ORS)-4 mission which aims to test small alternative launch vehicles. The Verge reports: "A small, experimental rocket meant to carry 13 communication satellites into space for the Department of Defense failed just one minute after launching from Hawaii last night, according to the US Air Force. Video footage of the event shows the rocket spiraling out of control as it falls back down to Earth, leaving a crooked contrail in its wake. This was the first flight ever for this kind of vehicle — known as a Super Strypi rocket — as well as the first rocket launch attempt from the Hawaiian Islands."
The Military

'Game of Drones' -- a Live War Game About Drone Combat Strategy (vice.com) 37

derekmead writes: A national security think tank just ran a two-day war game designed to explore the different ways that drones could be used for tactical and strategic effect in a conflict. The participants engaged in 12 different scenarios and "debated the efficacy of using drones as airborne improvised explosive devices, or as a way to harass an adversary’s air force."

The summit sought to address whether shooting down a drone might escalate tensions between countries or whether drones changed the character of a conflict by giving actors capabilities they didn't have before. As more and more state and non-state actors acquire drones, the war game illustrated how drones could be used in creative ways to further political or military objectives (PDF).


US Government IT Outsourcing Is Poorly Managed (cio.com) 85

itwbennett writes: The U.S. government is spending way more than it has to on IT outsourcing. That's the finding of a report released in September by the Government Accountability Office that studied IT services outsourcing at three military branches within the Department of Defense, along with the Department of Homeland Security and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. According to the report, while efforts to better manage their IT outsourcing had improved, most of these agencies' IT spending "continues to be obligated through hundreds of potentially duplicative contracts that diminish the government's buying power."
The Military

US Tech Giants Increasingly Partner With Military-Connected Chinese Companies 100

theodp writes: The New York Times reports that analysts and officials in the American military community are increasingly examining a recent trend among U.S. tech companies of forming new partnerships with Chinese firms that have ties to the Chinese military. Critics are concerned that the growing number of such deals could inadvertently improve the fundamental technology capabilities of the Chinese military — or worse, harm United States national security. "One Chinese technology company receives crucial technical guidance from a former People's Liberation Army rear admiral," notes the Times. "Another company developed the electronics on China's first atomic bomb. A third sells technology to China's air-to-air missile research academy. Their ties to the Chinese military run deep, and they all have something else in common: Each Chinese company counts one of America's tech giants — IBM, Cisco Systems or Microsoft — as a partner." A blurring of the lines among many companies that supply military and commercial technology makes it difficult to know what cooperation might result in technology ultimately being used by China's military. "The Chinese companies are required to do the best for their government. American companies say they are only answerable to their shareholders," said James McGregor of the consulting firm Apco Worldwide. "So who is looking out for the United States?"
The Military

US Army Tests Swarms of Drones In Major Exercise (itworld.com) 47

itwbennett writes: The U.S. Army, curious about the potential threat and usefulness of off-the-shelf drones, brought consumer quadcopters and octocopters to the Network Integration Evaluation war games that concluded earlier this month at White Sands Missile Range, New Mexico, and Fort Bliss, Texas. "During the exercise, which is used by the Army to help evaluate new technology, the drones were deployed as a swarm to simulate a threat,' writes Martyn Williams. 'Later, the Army expanded the trials to discover whether it might be able to make use of the same technology." The results are pretty much what you'd expect: "It has been proved that consumer [drones] can be used for intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance, distraction tactics and, in the future, the ability to drop small munitions," said Barry Hatchett with the Army's Program Executive Office for Simulation, Training and Instrumentation.
The Military

Military Blimp Breaks Free and Drifts Over the Mid-Atlantic Trailing Tether (baltimoresun.com) 196

McGruber writes: The Baltimore Sun reports that a military surveillance blimp has broken free of its mooring at Aberdeen Proving Ground in Maryland and was last seen drifting at 16,000 ft over Pennsylvania. The 243-foot-long, helium-filled JLENS (Joint Land Attack Cruise Missile Defense Elevated Netted Sensor System) aerostat detached from its mooring at about 11:54 a.m. Wednesday. It was trailing approximately 6,700 feet of cable. "Anyone who sees the aerostat is advised to contact 911 immediately," spokeswoman Heather Roelker said. "People are warned to keep a safe distance from the airship and tether as contact with them may present significant danger."