The Military

North Korea's Satellite Tumbling In Orbit 185

schwit1 writes: U.S. Defense officials stated Tuesday that the satellite that North Korea launched on Sunday is now tumbling in orbit and is useless. Do not take comfort from this failure. North Korea has demonstrated that it can put payloads in orbit. From this achievement it is a very short leap to aiming those payloads to impact any continent on Earth. They might not be able to aim that impact very accurately, but if you want to ignite an atomic bomb somewhere, you don't have to be very accurate.
Government

North Korea Accused of Testing an ICBM With Missile Launch Into Space (examiner.com) 284

MarkWhittington writes: Reuters reported that North Korea launched a long-range missile that is said to have placed a satellite into space. The launch happened much to the consternation of North Korea's neighbors, South Korea and Japan, as well as the United States. Pyongyang claimed that the missile launch was part of that country's peaceful space program. But, other countries are pretty sure that the launch was a test of an ICBM capable of placing a nuclear weapon on any target in the world, particularly the United States.
United States

Journalist Claims Secret US Flight 'To Capture Snowden' Overflew Scottish Airspace (thenational.scot) 198

schwit1 writes with a story in The National (a newspaper which makes no bones about it support for an independent Scotland) describing the charge laid by a Scottish journalist that in 2013 a secret U.S. flight involving a plane involved in CIA renditions crossed Scottish airspace, as part of a secret plan to capture whistleblower Edward Snowden. Alex Salmond, then Scotland's First Minister, is calling for transparency with regard to the knowledge that the UK government had of the flight and its mission. According to the report, The plane, which passed above the Outer Hebrides, the Highlands and Aberdeenshire, was dispatched from the American east coast on June 24 2013, the day after Snowden left Hong Kong for Moscow. The craft was used in controversial US 'rendition' missions. Reports by Scottish journalist Duncan Campbell claim the aircraft, traveling well above the standard aviation height at 45,000 feet and without a filed flight plan, was part of a mission to capture Snowden following his release of documents revealing mass surveillance by US and UK secret services. ... [N977GA, the aircraft named as involved in this flight] was previously identified by Dave Willis in Air Force Monthly as an aircraft used for CIA rendition flights of US prisoners. This included the extradition of cleric Abu Hamza from the UK. Snowden accused the Danish Government of conspiring in his arrest. In response to flight reports, he said: "Remember when the Prime Minister Rasmussen said Denmark shouldn't respect asylum law in my case? Turns out he had a secret."
NASA

AnonSec Attempts To Crash $222m Drone, Releases Secret Flight Videos (ibtimes.co.uk) 133

An anonymous reader writes with an excerpt from IBTimes that says it's not just governments that have proven themselves capable of hacking into drones: Hackers from the AnonSec group who spent several months hacking NASA have released a huge data dump and revealed they tried to bring down a $222m Global Hawk drone into the Pacific Ocean. The hack included employee personal details, flight logs and video footage collected from unmanned and manned aircraft. The 250GB data dump contained the names, email addresses and phone numbers of 2,414 NASA employees, 2,143 flight logs and 631 videos taken from Nasa aircraft and radar feeds, as well as a self-published paper (known as a 'zine') from the group explaining the extensive technical vulnerabilities that the hackers were able to breach. Among these: the group discovered that the flight paths uploaded into each drone could be replaced with their own.
Crime

Dutch Police Train Bald Eagles To Take Out Drones 137

Qbertino writes: Heise.de (German article) reports that the Dutch police is training raptor birds — bald eagles, too — to take down drones. There's a video (narrated and interviewed in Dutch) linked in TFA. It's a test phase and not yet determined if this is going real — concerns about the birds getting injured are among the counter-arguments against this course of action. This all is conducted by a company called "Guard from above," which designs systems to prevent smugling via drones. The article also mentions MTU's net-shooting quadcopter concept of a drone-predator. Of course, there are also 'untrained' birds taking out quadcopters, as you might have seen already.
Crime

San Francisco Bay Area In Superbowl Surveillance Mode (wired.com) 95

An anonymous reader links to Wired's description of a surveillance society in miniature assembling right now in San Francisco: Super Bowl 50 will be big in every way. A hundred million people will watch the game on TV. Over the next ten days, 1 million people are expected to descend on the San Francisco Bay Area for the festivities. And, according to the FBI, 60 federal, state, and local agencies are working together to coordinate surveillance and security at what is the biggest national security event of the year.
Previous year's Superbowl security measures have included WMD sensors, database-backed facial recognition, and gamma-ray vehicle scanners. Given the fears and cautions in the air about this year's contest, it's easy to guess that the scanning and sensing will be even more prevalent this time.
The Military

Israeli Vulture Suspected of Spying Returned 109

New submitter red crab writes: BBC reports that a griffon vulture with GPS tracking device attached to its leg that was part of conservation program at Tel Aviv University was captured in Lebanon after it was suspected to be a Israeli spy. UN Liaison forces helped secure the release of the bird after holding talks with Lebanese and Israeli officials.
Communications

U.S. Forces Viewed Encrypted Israeli Drone Feeds (theintercept.com) 49

iceco2 links to The Intercept's report that the U.S. and UK intelligence forces have been (or at least were) intercepting positional data as well as imagery from Israeli drones and fighters, through a joint program dubbed "Anarchist," based on the island of Cyprus. Among the captured images that the Intercept has published, based on data provided by Edward Snowden, are ones that appear to show weaponized drones, something that the U.S. military is well-known for using, but that the IDF does not publicly acknowledge as part of its own arsenal. Notes iceco2: U.S. spying on allies is nothing new. It is surprising to see the ease with which encrypted Israeli communications were intercepted. As always, it wasn't the crypto which was broken -- just the lousy method it was applied. Ars Technica explains that open-source software, including ImageMagick was central to the analysis of the captured data.
United States

Air Force Firewall Now Designated a Weapons System (gazette.com) 137

An anonymous reader writes with a report from the Colorado Springs Gazette that the U.S. Air Force Space Command has declared its first cyber "weapons system" operational. The weapon, deemed fully operational this month, is basically a big firewall designed to protect the Air Force's internal 1 million-user network from hackers. It will be a hot topic at the Rocky Mountain Cyber Symposium, which is expected to draw hundreds of computer experts to The Broadmoor for a four-day confab starting Monday." More from the article about why a firewall would be called a weapon: The biggest reason for the weaponization push is financial: When it comes to budget battles, weapons, even those with a keyboard and a mouse, get cash from Congress. "Designating something as a weapons system really does help us justify our funding," Col. Pamela Wooley, who commands the Alabama-based 26th Cyberspace Operations Group, which includes the new weapon.
Communications

OSINT Analysis of Militia Communications, Equipment and Frequencies (wordpress.com) 336

An anonymous reader writes: On January 2, 2016, the headquarters of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in Oregon, United States, were occupied by armed members of rump militias in one of the longest-running law enforcement standoff in American history. The Radiomasterreport blog, using publicly available information, wrote an OSINT Analysis of Militia Communications, Radio Equipment and Frequencies. The research results has astonishing conclusions: far-right patriot militas openly carrying +3000$ AR15 rifles and US military body armour also use cheap 30$ unsecure chinese Baofeng walkie talkie radios with no encryption whatsoever. Any simple ham radio operator , police scanner owner, or even some folks with a Software Defined Radio can receive those militia communications.
The Military

Psychic Dogs and Enlisted Men: the Military's Research Into ESP (muckrock.com) 49

v3rgEz writes: Government research often pushes the boundaries between science and science fiction. Today, the proud bearer of that mantle is often DARPA, experimenting with robots, cybernetics, and more. But in the sixties, during the height of the Cold War, this research often went into more fantastical realms, even exploring whether ExtraSensory Perception (ESP) was possible. Thanks to FOIA, MuckRock looks back on the paranormal history of American surveillance.
Government

Backdoor Account Found On Devices Used By White House, US Military (sec-consult.com) 166

An anonymous reader writes: A hidden backdoor account was discovered embedded in the firmware of devices deployed at the White House and in various US Military strategic centers, more precisely in AMX conference room equipment. The first account was named Black Widow, and after security researchers reported its presence to AMX, the company's employees simply renamed it to Batman thinking nobody will notice. AMX did remove the backdoor after three months. In its firmware's official release notes, AMX claimed that the two accounts were only used for debugging, just like Fortinet claimed that its FortiOS SSH backdoor was used only internally by a management protocol.
The Military

More Air Force Drones Are Crashing Than Ever As Mysterious New Problems Emerge (washingtonpost.com) 141

schwit1 points out that a record number of Air Force drones crashed in major accidents last year. Leading the accident count is the Reaper which has seen a number of sudden electrical failures. The Washington Post reports: "A record number of Air Force drones crashed in major accidents last year, documents show, straining the U.S. military's fleet of robotic aircraft when it is in more demand than ever for counterterrorism missions in an expanding array of war zones. Driving the increase was a mysterious surge in mishaps involving the Air Force's newest and most advanced 'hunter-killer' drone, the Reaper, which has become the Pentagon's favored weapon for conducting surveillance and airstrikes against the Islamic State, al-Qaeda and other militant groups. The Reaper has been bedeviled by a rash of sudden electrical failures that have caused the 21/2-ton drone to lose power and drop from the sky, according to accident-investigation documents obtained under the Freedom of Information Act. Investigators have traced the problem to a faulty starter-generator,but have been unable to pinpoint why it goes haywire or devise a permanent fix.
The Military

Biofuels Will Power Navy's Next Deployment (sandiegouniontribune.com) 115

mdsolar writes with news about the launch of the "Great Green Fleet," part of a Navy plan to use 50% alternative fuels by 2020. The San Diego Union-Tribune reports: "This Wednesday, there surely will be tears, hugs and excitement as sailors begin another deployment to the world's hotspots. On the surface, it will be a replay of a common occurrence in any Navy town when sailors go to sea, but in the ships' gas tanks will be fuel made from renewable resources that has officials back at the Pentagon exuberant. 'Underway on beef-fat power' might not have the same ring as 'Underway on nuclear power,' the historic message the Nautilus submarine beamed when it left the pier 61 years ago today. Nonetheless, the Navy is trumpeting the use of renewable biofuels as a game-changer. In 2009, Navy Secretary Ray Mabus announced that the Navy and Marine Corps would get half of their power from non-fossil fuel sources by 2020, and that the Navy would deploy an entire carrier strike group using biofuels by 2016."
The Military

A Small Secret Airstrip In Africa Is the Future of America's Way of War 139

HughPickens.com writes: Reuters reports that the Pentagon is quietly building up a small airstrip in a remote region of east Africa that is a complex microcosm of how Washington runs military operations overseas — and how America's way of war will probably look for the foreseeable future. Chabelley Airfield is less than 10 miles from the capital of the small African nation of Djibouti but the small airport is the hub for America's drone operations in the nearby hotspots of Somalia and Yemen as part of its war against Islamic militants. "The U.S. military is being pressured into considering the adoption of more of a lily pad basing model in the wake of so much turbulence and warfare across the region," says Dr. Geoffrey Gresh. "Djibouti is a small, relatively safe ally that enables the U.S. special operators to carry out missions effectively across the continent." In September 2013, the Pentagon announced it was moving the pilotless aircraft from its main base at Camp Lemonnier to Chabelley with almost no fanfare. Africom and the Pentagon jealously guard information about their outposts in Africa, making it impossible to ascertain even basic facts — like a simple count — let alone just how many are integral to JSOC operations, drone strikes, and other secret activities. However a map in a Pentagon report indicates that there were 10 MQ-1 Predator drones and four larger, more far-ranging MQ-9 Reapers based at Camp Lemonnier in June 2012 before the move to Chabelley.

The Pentagon does not list Chabelley in its annual Base Structure Report, the only official compendium of American military facilities around the world. "The Chebelley base [is] a reflection of the growing presence of the U.S. military in Africa," says Dr. David Vine, author of 'Base Nation: How U.S. Military Bases Abroad Harm America and the World". "The [U.S.] military has gone to great lengths to disguise and downplay its growing presence in Africa generally in the hopes of avoiding negative attention and protests both in the U.S. and in African countries wary of the colonial-esque presence of foreign troops." American drones fly regular missions from Chabelley, an airstrip the French run with the approval of the Djiboutian government. Washington pays Djibouti for access to Paris' outpost. Part of the reason for this circuitous chain of responsibility could be the fact that the Pentagon's drone missions are often controversial. Critics contend targeted strikes against militants are illegal under American and international law and tantamount to assassination. "The military is easily capable of adapting to change, but they don't like to stop anything they feel is making their lives easier, or is to their benefit. And this certainly is, in their eyes, a very quick, clean way of doing things. It's a very slick, efficient way to conduct the war, without having to have the massive ground invasion mistakes of Iraq and Afghanistan."
Encryption

Police Say They Can Crack BlackBerry PGP Encrypted Email (sophos.com) 117

schwit1 writes: Police in two countries have claimed that they can read encrypted data from BlackBerry devices that are being marketed as having "military-grade security." The story originally broke when Dutch website Misdaadnieuws (Crime News) published documents from the Netherlands Forensic Institute (NFI), a Dutch law enforcement agency, stating that police were able to access deleted messages and read encrypted emails on so-called BlackBerry PGP devices. A representative from NFI confirmed that "we are capable of obtaining encrypted data from BlackBerry PGP devices," according to a report from Motherboard. On Tuesday, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) also told Motherboard they can crack encrypted messages on PGP BlackBerrys.
The Military

US Modernizes Nuclear Arsenal With Smaller, Precision-Guided Atomic Weapons (nytimes.com) 230

HughPickens.com writes: The NY Times reports that the Pentagon has been developing the B61 Model 12, the nation's first precision-guided atom bomb. Adapted from an older weapon, the Model 12 was designed with problems like North Korea in mind: Its computer brain and four maneuverable fins let it zero in on deeply buried targets like testing tunnels and weapon sites and its yield can be dialed up or down depending on the target, to minimize collateral damage. The B61 Model 12 flight-tested last year in Nevada and is the first of five new warhead types planned as part of an atomic revitalization estimated to cost up to $1 trillion over three decades. As a family, the weapons and their delivery systems move toward the small, the stealthy and the precise.

And some say that's the problem. The Federation of American Scientists argues that the high accuracy and low destructive settings means military commanders might press to use the bomb in an attack, knowing the radioactive fallout and collateral damage would be limited. Increasing the accuracy also broadens the type of targets that the B61 can be used to attack. Some say that a new nuclear tipped cruise missile under development might sway a future president to contemplate "limited nuclear war." Worse yet, because the missile comes in nuclear and non-nuclear varieties, a foe under attack might assume the worst and overreact, initiating nuclear war. In a recent interview, General James Cartwright, a retired four-star general who last served as the eighth Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff says the overall modernization plan might change how military commanders looked at the risks of using nuclear weapons. "What if I bring real precision to these weapons?" says Cartwright. "Does it make them more usable? It could be."

The Military

US Military Will Soon Begin Testing NSA's New, Post-Snowden Security Measures (dailydot.com) 72

Patrick O'Neill writes: The U.S. military will closely review the NSA's security measures as concerns mount that foreign adversaries and independent hackers are targeting the American government in cyberspace. "We will determine whether National Security Agency processes and technical controls are effective to limit privileged access to National Security Agency systems and data and to monitor privileged user actions for unauthorized or inappropriate activity," Carol Gorman, the Pentagon's assistant inspector general, wrote in the letter.
Crime

Police Agencies Using Software To Generate "Threat Scores" of Suspects (washingtonpost.com) 148

Koreantoast writes: It's no secret that governments across the globe have been taking advantage of new technologies to create stronger surveillance systems on citizens. While many have focused on the actions of intelligence agencies, local police departments continue to create more sophisticated systems as well. A recent article highlights one new system deployed by the Fresno, California police department, Intrado's Beware. The system scours police data, public records, social media, and public Internet data to provide a "threat level" of a potential suspect or residency. The software is part of a broader trend of military counterinsurgency tools and algorithms being repurposed for civil use. While these tools can help police manage actively dangerous situations, providing valuable intel when responding to calls, the analysis also raises serious civil liberties questions both in privacy (where the data comes from) and accuracy (is the data valid, was the analysis done correctly). Also worrying are the long term ramifications to such technologies: there has already been some speculation about "citizen scores," could a criminal threat score be something similar? At very least, as Matt Cagle of the ACLU noted, "there needs to be a meaningful debate... there needs to be safeguards and oversight."
Government

How We Know North Korea Didn't Detonate a Hydrogen Bomb 176

StartsWithABang writes: The news has been aflame with reports that North Korea detonated a hydrogen bomb on January 6th, greatly expanding its nuclear capabilities with their fourth nuclear test and the potential to carry out a devastating strike against either South Korea or, if they're more ambitious, the United States. The physics of what a nuclear explosion actually does and how that signal propagates through the air, oceans and ground, however, can tell us whether this was truly a nuclear detonation at all, and if so, whether it was fusion or fission. From all the data we've collected, this appears to be nothing new: just a run-of-the-mill fission bomb, with the rest being a sensationalized claim. (Related: Yesterday's post about how seismic data also points to a conventional nuke, rather than an H-bomb.)

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