The Military

US Preparing to Put Nuclear Bombers On 24-Hour Alert (defenseone.com) 259

DefenseOne reports on new preparations at Barksdale Air Force Base: The U.S. Air Force is preparing to put nuclear-armed bombers back on 24-hour ready alert, a status not seen since the Cold War ended in 1991. That means the long-dormant concrete pads at the ends of this base's 11,000-foot runway -- dubbed the "Christmas tree" for their angular markings -- could once again find several B-52s parked on them, laden with nuclear weapons and set to take off at a moment's notice... Gen. David Goldfein, Air Force chief of staff, and other senior defense officials stressed that the alert order had not been given, but that preparations were under way in anticipation that it might come...

Already, various improvements have been made to prepare Barksdale -- home to the 2d Bomb Wing and Air Force Global Strike Command, which oversees the service's nuclear forces -- to return B-52s to an alert posture. Near the alert pads, an old concrete building -- where B-52 crews during the Cold War would sleep, ready to run to their aircraft and take off at a moment's notice -- is being renovated. Inside, beds are being installed for more than 100 crew members, more than enough room for the crews that would man bombers positioned on the nine alert pads outside... Large paintings of the patches for each squadron at Barksdale adorn the walls of a large stairway. One painting -- a symbol of the Cold War -- depicts a silhouette of a B-52 with the words "Peace The Old Fashioned Way," written underneath.

General Goldfein, the Air Force's top officer and a member of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, "is asking his force to think about new ways that nuclear weapons could be used for deterrence, or even combat... 'It's no longer a bipolar world where it's just us and the Soviet Union. We've got other players out there who have nuclear capability. It's never been more important to make sure that we get this mission right.'"
The Military

SpaceX's Reusable Rockets Win US Air Force General's Endorsement (bloomberg.com) 70

As the military looks to drive down costs, the head of U.S. Air Force Space Command said he's "completely committed" to launching future missions with recycled rockets like those championed by SpaceX's Elon Musk. "It would be 'absolutely foolish' not to begin using pre-flown rockets, which brings such significant savings that they'll soon be commonplace for the entire industry, General John W. 'Jay' Raymond said," reports Bloomberg. From the report: "The market's going to go that way. We'd be dumb not to," he said. "What we have to do is make sure we do it smartly." The Air Force won't be able to use the recycled boosters until they're certified for military use, a process that Raymond suggested may already be in the works. "The folks out at Space and Missile Systems Center in Los Angeles that work for me would be in those dialogues," he said, declining to specify when certification could take place. "I don't know how far down the road we've gotten, but I am completely committed to launching on a reused rocket, a previously flown rocket, and making sure that we have the processes in place to be able to make sure that we can do that safely."
Earth

Nobel Prize Winner Argues Tech Companies Should Be Changing The World (qz.com) 152

An anonymous reader writes: Tech companies are competing to serve the wealthy, argues the winner of the 2006 Nobel Peace Prize, complaining there's no "global vision," with big innovations instead "designed and dedicated mostly for commercial successes... while trillions of dollars are invested in developing robotics and artificial intelligence for military and commercial purposes, there is little interest in applying technology to overcome the massive human problems of the world." A genius in the tech industry "can dedicate his work to creating a medical breakthrough that will save thousands of lives -- or he can develop an app that will let people amuse themselves."

As an exception, he cites the low-cost Endless computer, which runs Linux and has 50,000 Wikipedia articles pre-installed to enable offline research -- plus more than 100 applications -- for a price of just $79. "One part of Endless's business is operated like a conventional, profit-seeking company, while the other part is a social business that provides underserved populations with educational, health, and creative services they were once denied. Endless is already being shipped around the globe by four of the five largest computer manufacturers. It has become the leading PC platform in Indonesia and much of Southeast Asia. It has also been selected as the standard operating system for the Brazilian Ministry of Education, and in coming months it will be adopted as the primary platform by a number of other Latin American countries."

The article is by Muhammad Yunus, who pioneered the concepts of microcredit and microfinance, and is taken from his new book, A World of Three Zeros: The New Economics of Zero Poverty, Zero Unemployment, and Zero Net Carbon Emissions.
The Military

Pentagon Turns To High-Speed Traders To Fortify Markets Against Cyberattack (wsj.com) 78

Slashdot reader Templer421 quotes the Wall Street Journal's report [non-paywalled version here] on DARPA's "Financial Markets Vulnerabilities Project": Dozens of high-speed traders and others from Wall Street are helping the Pentagon study how hackers could unleash chaos in the U.S. financial system. The Department of Defense's research arm over the past year and a half has consulted executives at high-frequency trading firms and quantitative hedge funds, and people from exchanges and other financial companies, participants in the discussions said. Officials described the effort as an early-stage pilot project aimed at identifying market vulnerabilities... Participants described meetings as informal sessions in which attendees brainstorm about how hackers might try to bring down U.S. markets, then rank the ideas by feasibility.

Among the potential scenarios: Hackers could cripple a widely used payroll system; they could inject false information into stock-data feeds, sending trading algorithms out of whack; or they could flood the stock market with fake sell orders and trigger a market crash... "We started thinking a couple years ago what it would be like if a malicious actor wanted to cause havoc on our financial markets," said Wade Shen, who researched artificial intelligence at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology before joining Darpa as a program manager in 2014.

Science

Octopuses Show Scientists How To Hide Machines in Plain Sight (axios.com) 63

If you want to learn the art of camouflage look no further than octopuses. Just watch this famous video that shows a diver slowly swimming up to a clump of rock and seaweed, only for part of that clump to turn white, open its eye, and jet away, squirting ink behind it. Materials scientists and engineers have fallen under the octopuses' spell. From a report: Scientists have engineered a material that can transform from a 2D sheet to a 3D shape, adjusting its texture to blend in with its surroundings, per a new study published today in Science. They mimicked the abilities of an octopus, which can change both shape and color to camouflage. This is a first step toward developing soft robots that can hide in plain sight, robotics expert Cecilia Laschi writes of the research. Robots that can camouflage may one day be used in natural environments to study animals more closely than ever before or in military operations to avoid detection, she writes.
Security

US Weapons Data Stolen During Raid of Australian Defense Contractor's Computers (wsj.com) 78

phalse phace writes: Another day, another report of a major breach of sensitive U.S. military and intelligence data. According to a report by The Wall Street Journal (Warning: source may be paywalled; alternative source), "A cyberattacker nicknamed 'Alf' gained access to an Australian defense contractor's computers and began a four-month raid that snared data on sophisticated U.S. weapons systems. Using the simple combinations of login names and passwords 'admin; admin' and 'guest; guest' and exploiting a vulnerability in the company's help-desk portal, the attacker roved the firm's network for four months. The identity and affiliation of the hackers in the Australian attack weren't disclosed, but officials with knowledge of the intrusion said the attack was thought to have originated in China."

The article goes on to state that "Alf obtained around 30 gigabytes of data on Australia's planned purchase of up to 100 F-35 fighters made by Lockheed Martin, as well as information on new warships and Boeing-built P-8 Poseidon maritime-surveillance aircraft, in the July 2016 breach." The stolen data also included details of the C-130 Hercules transport aircraft and guided bombs used by the U.S. and Australian militaries as well as design information "down to the captain's chair" on new warships for Australia's navy.

Government

North Korean Hackers Stole U.S.-South Korean Military Plans, Lawmaker Says (nytimes.com) 110

North Korean hackers stole a vast cache of data, including classified wartime contingency plans jointly drawn by the United States and South Korea, when they breached the computer network of the South Korean military last year, a South Korean lawmaker said Tuesday (alternative source). From a report: One of the plans included the South Korean military's plan to remove the North Korean leader, Kim Jong-un, referred to as a "decapitation" plan, should war break out on the Korean Peninsula, the lawmaker, Rhee Cheol-hee, told reporters. Mr. Rhee, a member of the governing Democratic Party who serves on the defense committee of the National Assembly, said he only recently learned of the scale of the North Korean hacking attack, which was first discovered in September last year. It was not known whether any of the military's top secrets were leaked, although Mr. Rhee said that nearly 300 lower-classification confidential documents were stolen. The military has not yet identified nearly 80 percent of the 235 gigabytes of leaked data, he said.
Security

HP Enterprise Let Russia Scrutinize The Pentagon's Cyberdefense Software (reuters.com) 121

"A Russian defense agency was allowed to review the cyberdefense software used by the Pentagon to protect its computer networks," writes new submitter quonset. "This according to Russian regulatory records and interviews with people with direct knowledge of the issue." Reuters reports: The Russian review of ArcSight's source code, the closely guarded internal instructions of the software, was part of Hewlett Packard Enterprise's effort to win the certification required to sell the product to Russia's public sector, according to the regulatory records seen by Reuters and confirmed by a company spokeswoman. Six former U.S. intelligence officials, as well as former ArcSight employees and independent security experts, said the source code review could help Moscow discover weaknesses in the software, potentially helping attackers to blind the U.S. military to a cyber attack. "It's a huge security vulnerability," said Greg Martin, a former security architect for ArcSight. "You are definitely giving inner access and potential exploits to an adversary."
It's another example of the problems security companies face when they try to do business internationally, according to Reuters. "One reason Russia requests the reviews before allowing sales to government agencies and state-run companies is to ensure that U.S. intelligence services have not placed spy tools in the software."

Long-time Slashdot reader bbsguru has his own worries. "So, opening your code for review because it is demanded by a potential customer? What could possibly go wrong? HPE may find out, and the U.S. Military is among the many clients depending on the answer."
Slashdot.org

20 Years of Stuff That Matters 726

Today we're marking Slashdot's 20th birthday. 20 years is a long time on the internet. Many websites have come and gone over that time, and many that stuck around haven't had any interest in preserving their older content. Fortunately, as Slashdot approaches its 163,000th story, we've managed to keep track of almost all our old postings - all but the first 2^10, or so. In addition to that, we've held onto user comments, the lifeblood of the site, from 1999 onward. As we celebrate Slashdot's 20th anniversary this month, we thought we'd take a moment to highlight a few of the notable or interesting stories and discussions that have happened here in the past decade and a half. This is part of our 20-year anniversary celebration, and we've set up a page to coordinate user meet-ups. We'll be continuing to run some special pieces throughout the month, so keep an eye out for those.

Read on for a trip down memory lane.

Update: Slashdot founder CmdrTaco has taken to Medium with some of his own Slashdot nostalgia.
Security

Spies Hack. But the Best Spies Hack Other Spies. (bleepingcomputer.com) 26

Andrada Fiscutean, writing for BleepingComputer: When cyber spies known as NetTraveler were busy snooping on hundreds of government and military victims in 40 countries a few years ago, little did they know that another hacking group was probably watching them. During their investigation of NetTraveler, Kaspersky Lab researchers discovered an unusual backdoor that could have helped another attacker access one of their main servers, and then use the group's infrastructure or steal data. In the past five years, cybersecurity experts have encountered several cases in which espionage groups likely pilfered one another's spoils, being interested in getting both data and hacking tools. Kaspersky Researchers Costin Raiu and Juan Andres Guerrero-Saade talked about such incidents on Wednesday during the Virus Bulletin 2017 Conference in Madrid, Spain. Government hackers sometimes "obtain data by stealing it from someone else, who took it in the first place from the victims," Raiu told Bleeping Computer in an email interview before the conference. He and Guerrero-Saade believe that citizens' personal data could fall into the hands of a foreign intelligence agency that's better equipped than the domestic one. The experts based their presentation on so far unpublished research that shows how spies walk off with other spies' data and tools, gaining valuable insight into a foreign service's intelligence collection methods, recruitment tactics, procedural guidelines, and the targets operatives have to monitor.
Transportation

Russian Defense Company Demos A One-Person Flying Car (futurism.com) 95

An anonymous reader quotes Futurism: Russian defense company Kalashnikov has revealed their single-person flying car... As reported by Popular Mechanics, its body consists of a simple metal frame with a set of eight rotors used to lift it off the ground. A pair of joysticks are used to control the craft, while a set batteries found beneath the rider's seat provide the necessary power... Using electricity makes it lighter than a craft that relies on gasoline or a diesel engine, but as noted by DefenseNews, the batteries probably only enable it to fly for about 30 minutes before it needs to land.
There's video footage on YouTube of the flying craft lifting off.
Communications

Air Force Gives 10-Year-Old Orbiting Satellite To Ham Radio Operators (arrl.org) 74

Longtime Slashdot reader Bruce Perens writes: The U.S. Air Force has transferred control of a 10-year-old orbiting satellite to AMSAT, a ham radio organization, which has enabled it for any licensed ham to use on the air, as the satellite's Air Force missions have ended. Falconsat 3's first mission was science: measuring gravity gradient, spectrometry of the plasmasphere, electronic noise in the plasmasphere, and testing three-axis attitude control using microthrusters. Secondarily it was used to train Air Force Institute of Technology students in space operations, with close to 700 cadets obtaining ham licenses in order to operate a number of Air Force satellites using ham frequencies.

Now in its third mission, control of the satellite has been transferred to AMSAT, the Radio Amateur Satellite Corporation, and all government frequencies have been disabled with only ham ones remaining. The satellite will relay APRS (position and status reporting) signals, it will operate a BBS in the sky, and will broadcast telemetry.

Books

'Banned Books Week' Recognizes 2016's Most-Censored Books (and Comic Books) (newsweek.com) 166

An anonymous reader quotes Newsweek: The American Library Association's yearly Banned Books Week, held this year between Sunday September 24 and Saturday September 30, is both a celebration of freedom and a warning against censorship. Launched in 1982 in response to a sudden surge in the number of challenges to books in schools, bookstores and libraries, the event spotlights the risk of censorship still present... "While books have been and continue to be banned, part of the Banned Books Week celebration is the fact that, in a majority of cases, the books have remained available. This happens only thanks to the efforts of librarians, teachers, students, and community members who stand up and speak out for the freedom to read," the ALA stated.
"This Banned Books Week, we're asking people of all political persuasions to come together and celebrate Our Right to Read," says a coalition supporting the event. The ALA reports that half of the most frequently challenged books were in fact actually banned last year, according to the library group's Office for Intellectual Freedom (OIF), which calculates there were 17% more attempts to censor books in America in 2016. The five most-challenged books all contained LGBT characters, and the most common phrase used to complain about books is "sexually explicit," the OIF told Publisher's Weekly -- perhaps reflecting a change in targets. He believes one reason is that most challenges now are reported not for books in the library but against books in the advanced English curricula of some schools. This change also represents a shift upward in the age of the readers of the most challenged books. "We've moved from helicopter parenting, where people were hovering over their kids, to Velcro parenting," LaRue says. "There's no space at all between the hand of the parent and the head of the child. These are kids who are 16, 17; in one year they're going to be old enough to sign up for the military, get married, or vote, and their parents are still trying to protect them from content that is sexually explicit. I think that's a shift from overprotectiveness to almost suffocating."
Three of the 10 most-challenged books were graphic novels, so the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund is sharing their own list of banned and challenged comics.

Their list includes two Neil Gaiman titles, Sandman and The Graveyard Book , as well two popular Batman titles -- Frank Miller's The Dark Knight Strikes Again and Alan Moore's The Killing Joke -- plus Moore's graphic novel Watchmen, Maus by Art Spiegelman, and even Amazing Spider-Man: Revelations by J. Michael Straczynski and John Romita, Jr.
Transportation

Civilian Drone Crashes Into a US Army Helicopter (nypost.com) 270

An anonymous reader quotes the New York Post: It was nearly Black Hawk down over Staten Island -- when an Army chopper was struck by an illegally flying drone over a residential neighborhood, authorities said Friday. The UA60 helicopter was flying 500 feet over Midland Beach alongside another Black Hawk, when the drone struck the chopper at around 8:15 p.m. Thursday, causing damage to its rotor blades. The uninjured pilot was able to land safely at nearby Linden Airport in New Jersey... "Our aircraft was not targeted, this was a civilian drone," said Army Lieutenant Colonel Joe Buccino, the spokesman for the 82nd Airborne... "One blade was damaged [and] dented in two spots and requires replacement and there is a dented window"... The NYPD and the military are investigating -- but no arrests have been made.
The same day a federal judge struck down an ordinance banning drone flights over private property that had been passed by the city of Newton, Massachusetts. But local law enforcement warned that "an out of control helicopter could have crashed into residential homes causing numerous injuries and even fatalities," while the Post reports that drones have also crashed into a power plant and into the 40th floor of the Empire State Building.

"In February, a GoPro drone crashed through a Manhattan woman's 27th floor window and landed just feet away from her as she sat in her living room."
AI

America's Data-Swamped Spy Agencies Pin Their Hopes On AI (phys.org) 62

An anonymous reader quotes Phys.org: Swamped by too much raw intel data to sift through, US spy agencies are pinning their hopes on artificial intelligence to crunch billions of digital bits and understand events around the world. Dawn Meyerriecks, the Central Intelligence Agency's deputy director for technology development, said this week the CIA currently has 137 different AI projects, many of them with developers in Silicon Valley. These range from trying to predict significant future events, by finding correlations in data shifts and other evidence, to having computers tag objects or individuals in video that can draw the attention of intelligence analysts. Officials of other key spy agencies at the Intelligence and National Security Summit in Washington this week, including military intelligence, also said they were seeking AI-based solutions for turning terabytes of digital data coming in daily into trustworthy intelligence that can be used for policy and battlefield action.
Space

Converted Missile Launches Military Satellite to Track Spacecraft (space.com) 39

schwit1 was the first to share the news about Saturday's successful launch from Cape Canaveral: A satellite designed to help the U.S. military keep tabs on the ever-growing population of orbiting objects took to the skies atop a converted missile early Saturday morning. The Air Force's Operationally Responsive Space-5 (ORS-5) satellite lifted off from Florida's Cape Canaveral Air Force Station at 2:04 a.m. EDT (0604 GMT) atop an Orbital ATK Minotaur IV rocket, which carved a fiery orange arc into the sky as it rose... The first three stages of the Minotaur IV rocket are derived from decommissioned Peacekeeper intercontinental ballistic missiles... This morning's launch was the sixth for the Minotaur IV and the 26th overall for the Minotaur rocket family, which also includes the flight-proven Minotaur I, II and V vehicles.
The Orlando Sentinel notes it took place on "a long-dormant launch pad on the Space Coast...Launch Complex 46, which last hosted a rocket launch in 1999..."
Security

Fourth US Navy Collision This Year Raises Suspicion of Cyber-Attacks (thenextweb.com) 397

An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Next Web: Early Monday morning a U.S. Navy Destroyer collided with a merchant vessel off the coast of Singapore. The U.S. Navy initially reported that 10 sailors were missing, and today found "some of the remains" in flooded compartments. While Americans mourn the loss of our brave warriors, top brass is looking for answers. Monday's crash involving the USS John McCain is the fourth in the area, and possibly the most difficult to understand. So far this year 17 U.S. sailors have died in the Pacific southeast due to seemingly accidental collisions with civilian vessels.

Should four collisions in the same geographical area be chalked up to coincidence? Could a military vessel be hacked? In essence, what if GPS spoofing or administrative lockout caused personnel to be unaware of any imminent danger or unable to respond? The Chief of Naval Operations (CNO) says there's no reason to think it was a cyber-attack, but they're looking into it: "2 clarify Re: possibility of cyber intrusion or sabotage, no indications right now...but review will consider all possibilities," tweeted Adm. John Richardson. The obvious suspects -- if a sovereign nation is behind any alleged attacks -- would be Russia, China, and North Korea, all of whom have reasonable access to the location of all four incidents. It may be chilling to imagine such a bold risk, but it's not outlandish to think a government might be testing cyber-attack capabilities in the field.

The Military

US Military To Create Separate Unified Cyber Warfare Command (securityweek.com) 56

wiredmikey quotes a report from SecurityWeek: President Donald Trump has ordered the U.S. military to elevate its cyber warfare operations to a separate command, signaling a new strategic emphasis on electronic and online offensive and defensive operations. "I have directed that United States Cyber Command be elevated to the status of a Unified Combatant Command focused on cyberspace operations," Trump said in a statement Friday. The move would expand the number of the Defense Department's unified combatant commands to 10, putting cyber warfare on an equal footing with the Strategic Command, the Special Operations Command, and regional commands. Until now cyber warfare operations have been run under the umbrella of the National Security Agency, the country's main electronic spying agency, with Admiral Michael Rogers heading both.
Security

How Hackers Are Targeting the Shipping Industry (bbc.com) 48

An anonymous reader shares a report: When staff at CyberKeel investigated email activity at a medium-sized shipping firm, they made a shocking discovery. "Someone had hacked into the systems of the company and planted a small virus," explains co-founder Lars Jensen. "They would then monitor all emails to and from people in the finance department." Whenever one of the firm's fuel suppliers would send an email asking for payment, the virus simply changed the text of the message before it was read, adding a different bank account number. "Several million dollars," says Mr Jensen, were transferred to the hackers before the company cottoned on. After the NotPetya cyber-attack in June, major firms including shipping giant Maersk were badly affected. In fact, Maersk revealed this week that the incident could cost it as much as $300 million in profits. But Mr Jensen has long believed that that the shipping industry needs to protect itself better against hackers -- the fraud case dealt with by CyberKeel was just another example. The firm was launched more than three years ago after Mr Jensen teamed up with business partner Morten Schenk, a former lieutenant in the Danish military who Jensen describes as "one of those guys who could hack almost anything." They wanted to offer penetration testing -- investigative tests of security -- to shipping companies. The initial response they got, however, was far from rosy.
Social Networks

Thai Activist Jailed For the Crime of Sharing an Article on Facebook (eff.org) 120

An anonymous reader shares a report: Thai activist Jatuphat "Pai" Boonpattaraksa was sentenced this week to two and a half years in prison -- for the crime of sharing a BBC article on Facebook. The Thai-language article profiled Thailand's new king and, while thousands of users shared it, only Jutaphat was found to violate Thailand's strict lese majeste laws against insulting, defaming, or threatening the monarchy. The sentence comes after Jatuphat has already spent eight months in detention without bail. During this time, Jatuphat has fought additional charges for violating the Thai military junta's ban on political gatherings and for other activism with Dao Din, an anti-coup group. While in trial in military court, Jatuphat also accepted the Gwangzu Prize for Human Rights. When he was arrested last December, Jatuphat was the first person to be charged with lese majeste since the former King Bhumibol passed away and his son Vajiralongkorn took the throne. (He was not, however, the first to receive a sentence -- this past June saw one of the harshest rulings to date, with one man waiting over a year in jail to be sentenced to 35 years for Facebook posts critical of the royal family.) The conviction, which appears to have singled Jatuphat out among thousands of other Facebook users who shared the article, sends a strong message to other activists and netizens: overbroad laws like lese majeste can and will be used to target those who oppose military rule in Thailand.

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