Google X worked an older staff member so hard he finally collapsed and it laid him off.
According to Business Insider the employee was assigned to fieldwork for Project Wing, which is X’s program to create delivery drones for transporting consumer goods and emergency medicine.
While out in private ranch lands in the Central Valley in California one day, the employee succumbed to either a heart attack or a grand mal seizure because of the hot temperatures in the Central Valley, coupled with a gruelling work schedule of 10-12 hours a day and stress may have brought it on.
The Project Wing drone tester, who returned to work after two months’ leave, found himself demoted and sent back into a field gig before eventually being pushed out of the company.
According to Business Insider, some members of the Project Wing field team painted an alarming picture of hostile work conditions driven by engineers and managers back at headquarters who scheduled the group to conduct loads of tests, thereby producing loads of data, despite the long hours outdoors that such a schedule required.
To make matters worse all their demanding work and data was being ignored because their backgrounds in the military were allegedly viewed disdainfully by Google X.
A security bug researcher who was invited by the US Army to look for holes in the system found himself rather a little deeper into the network that he, or the army expected.
The US Army shared some surprising results from its first bug bounty programme — a three-week trial in which they invite 371 security researchers “trained in figuring out how to break into computer networks they’re not supposed to”.
The Army said the experiment was a success and it received more than 400 bug reports, 118 of which were unique and actionable.
Participants who found and reported unique bugs that were fixed were paid upwards of $100,000…
The Army also shared high-level details on one issue that was uncovered through the bounty by a researcher who discovered that two vulnerabilities on the goarmy.com website could be chained together to access, without authentication, an internal Department of Défense website.
The researcher got in through an open proxy, meaning the routing wasn’t shut down the way it should have been. But the researcher, without even knowing it, could get to this internal network, because there was a vulnerability with the proxy, and with the actual system.
On its own, neither vulnerability was particularly interesting, but when you pair them together, it’s serious.
A top British cyber-spook has told the Daily Express that the US was considering plans to employ thousands of robots by 2025.
John Bassett, a British spy who worked for the agency GCHQ for nearly 20 years told coppers and counter-terrorism officials in London that by 2025 the US army will actually have more combat robots than it will have human soldiers.
Many of those combat robots will be trucks that can drive themselves, and they will get better at not falling off cliffs and it is possible that in the West combat robots outnumber human soldiers.
Robotic military equipment is already being used by the US Navy and Air Force, in the shape of drones and autonomous ships. In April robotic warfare took a major leap forward after the US Navy launched its very first self-piloting ship designed to hunt enemy submarines.
Of course drones have been a feature of US operations in the Middle East to disrupt terrorist groups. However, those aircrafts are still controlled by humans operating from bases in the US.
Bassett also said artificial intelligence and robots technology would combine to create powerful fighting machines. The cyber security expert said: “Artificial intelligence, robotics in general, those will begin to mesh together.”
The US has decided that automatic killer robots are not the droids it is looking for – yet.
A top Pentagon official was showing off all sorts of sci-fi type gear including missile-dodging satellites, self-flying F-16 fighters and robot naval fleets.
But Deputy Secretary of Defense Robert Work said that the Pentagon is not planning to build devices that can kill without human input – unless its enemies start building them.
“We might be going up against a competitor that is more willing to delegate authority to machines than we are, and as that competition unfolds we will have to make decisions on how we best can compete,” he said.
Work, who helps lead Pentagon efforts to ensure the US military keeps its technological edge, described several initiatives, including one dubbed “Loyal Wingman” that would see the Air Force convert an F-16 warplane into a semi-autonomous and unmanned fighter that flies alongside a manned F-35 jet.
“It is going to happen,” Work said of this and other unmanned systems.
“I would expect to see unmanned wingmen in the air first, I would expect to see unmanned systems undersea all over the place, I would expect to see unmanned systems on the surface of the sea,” Work told an audience at a discussion in the capital hosted by The Washington Post.
Work said it would take longer for the military to create autonomous trucks given the challenges of navigating off-road.
“When the roads become more dangerous we will go off road, and that type of navigation is extremely difficult,” Work said.
The US military wants to build driverless convoys to protect against roadside bombs, a low-tech weapon that has killed hundreds of troops in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The United States was planning an extensive cyber-attack on Iran if diplomacy over its nuclear programme failed.
According to the New York Times the attack was code-named Nitro Zeus and would have crippled Iran’s air defences, communications systems and key parts of its electrical power grid.
It was put on hold after a nuclear deal was reached last year.
The plan was set up by the Pentagon to give President Barack Obama that he had alternatives to war if Iran moved against the United States or its regional allies. It involved thousands of US military and intelligence personnel and would have required tens of millions of dollars and putting electronic devices in Iran’s computer networks.
US intelligence agencies at the same time developed a separate plan for a covert cyberattack to disable Iran’s Fordo nuclear enrichment site inside a mountain near the city of Qom.
The US Defence Department is building an electronic system to provide an overview of the vulnerabilities of the military’s computer networks, weapons systems, and installations
The deputy commander of US Cyber Command Air Force Lieutenant General Kevin McLaughlin said a framework should be out within months, with a goal of turning the system into an automated “scorecard” in coming years.
The effort grew out of a critical report about cyber threats released earlier this year by the Pentagon’s chief weapons tester.
Michael Gilmore, the Pentagon’s director of testing and evaluation, warned that nearly every major US weapons system was vulnerable to cyber-attacks.
What will be slow is that initial data entry would be done by hand, but the goal is to create a fully automated system that would help defence officials instantaneously detect and respond to cyber-attacks.
McLaughlin said nearly half of 133 planned cyber response teams had been established with about 6,200 people, and all of them would achieve an initial operational capability by the end of 2016.
The new scorecard would look at the greatest threats, including weapons systems fielded years ago before the cyber threat was fully understood.
“There’s probably not enough money in the world to fix all those things, but the question is what’s most important, where should we put our resources as we eat the elephant one bite at a time,” he said.
McLaughlin said the scorecard was initially intended to look at weapons and networks, but the Pentagon was now looking at a broader and more sophisticated approach that also accounted for how data was moved among agencies within the military.
French-backed US revolutionaries, who once offered licences to pirates to “legally” rob cargos belonging to their legitimate government, are back to their old tricks.
This time the US Army had found itself in hot water with a force that is even stronger than the nukes it has in its modern arsenal – the software industry.
The US government has agreed to pay $50 million after it was said to have pirated “thousands” of copies of military software.
The claim was made by Apptricity, based in Texas, which has provided logistics programs to the army since 2004.
Apptricity’s software allows the military to track the movements of soldiers as well as key supplies.
It had given 500 licences for the software but worked out that the US Army was using 9,000.
Apparently the unauthorised copying was revealed after a US Army official mentioned “thousands” of devices running the software during a presentation on technology. An Apptricity representative thought, “hang on a minute”.
Apptricity would spend the sum on expanding the company, after all if the US military was using it that much, others should want it too.
What is particularly daft is that the US government has stepped up efforts to combat piracy, particularly on behalf of its chums in Big Content. The fact that the people responsible for talking the loudest are huge pirates should come as a surprise. The people of Nova Scotia who suffered at the hands of American pirates during the French-backed terrorist coup against the British would think it par for the course.
It looks like all this talk of cyber warriors, and elite teams of internet butt kickers is being stymied by a lack of skilled hackers willing to work for the men in black.
While the US military’s Cyber Command is due to quadruple in size by 2015 with 4,000 new personnel while Britain announced a new Joint Cyber Reserve last month, Reuters claims that there is little chance of the jobs being filled.
To make matters worse, every time a hacker is hired, they are often headhunted by corporations.
Chris Finan, who is now a senior fellow at the Truman National Security Project, warned that there was not enough human capital for cyber security plans.
Part of the problem is culture. A hacker will choose where they get a lot of dosh, have a good lifestyle and a lack of bureaucracy. Neither of which are the sort of things that a government job offers them.
Governments say that most cyber expertise remains in the private sector where firms bid for cyber expertise.
To make matters worse, to get a government job you need a degree, yet a western university degree is considered too theoretical to do much that is useful.
Hackers don’t need a computer science degree as long as they can do the tricky jobs such as finding bugs in software, identifying elusive infections and reverse engineering computer viruses.
The only way the government is attracting hackers is to appeal to people’s sense of public service and patriotism. This is a little tricky when most of them are anti-establishment.
Russia, China, Iran and North Korea solve the problem by doing deals with their own criminal hacker community to borrow their expertise to assist with attacks.
The UK is to recruit hundreds of computer experts to form a cyber-army, defence secretary Philip Hammond announced over the weekend.
The unit will defend vital networks against cyber-attacks and launch high-tech assaults of its own, it is claimed at the Conservative party conference. Hammond proudly announced to the true blue loyalists that while there’s no cash for anyone else, Britain is spending increasing amounts on defending the great unwashed from people they are unlikely to ever meet.
Hammond said that while the UK is broke, it has the fourth largest defence budget in the world and a big chunk of the cash is not being spent on cyber intelligence and surveillance.
He said last year, cyber defences blocked around 400,000 advanced malicious cyber threats against the government’s secure internet alone, so the threat is real.
But he added that building cyber defence is not enough, as the UK also has to deter attacks. Hammond said Britain will build a dedicated capability to counterattack in cyberspace and, if necessary, to strike.
He told the Wail on Sunday that clinical “cyber strikes” could disable enemy communications, nuclear and chemical weapons, planes, ships and other hardware.
Hammond told the conference the government will recruit a new Joint Cyber Reserve.
The “reservists” will work alongside existing experts in various government agencies such as the Ministry of Defence and the extremely unpopular GCHQ surveillance agency.
His speech did not go that smoothly.
Hammond was heckled by former soldiers Colonel Ian Brazier and Captain Joe Eastwood who interrupted the minister’s speech to complain about cuts to regimental size. Conservative party officials escorted him from the conference building to the library where he was given a revolver and told to do the decent thing.
Campaigners are calling for laws which are similar to Isaac Asimov’s first law of robotics to prohibit the use of robots which can kill without a human control switch.
Researchers think that automatic killing machines should be ready for combat within the next 20 years if a doctor with a sonic screwdriver does not stop them. Nobel Laureate Jody Williams, of the “Campaign To Stop Killer Robots”, said that building real Doctor Who villains would breach a moral and ethical boundary that should never be crossed.
Williams, who won the 1997 peace prize for her work on banning landmines, said that if war is reduced to weapons attacking without human beings in control, it is going to be civilians who are going to bear the brunt of warfare.
Noel Sharkey, professor of Artificial Intelligence and Robotics at the University of Sheffield said that robots already have a certain amount of autonomy and if someone asked him to build an autonomous killer robot today, he could knock one up in a few days.
However, he said that the technology is a long way off being able to distinguish between a soldier and a civilian and the idea of a robot being asked to exercise human judgment is silly, he added.
According to Yahoo, the British government has always said it has no intention of developing such technology. But then again Britain has not had the money for such a product since the Blue Streak was cancelled.
The Royal Navy has a defensive system called Phalanx, which can be used in an automatic mode to protect personnel and ships from enemy threats like missiles but a human operator oversees the entire engagement.
But the organisers of the Campaign to Stop Killer Robots are worried that Britain’s rejection of fully autonomous weapons is not yet watertight. Particularly as the United States, China, Russia, Israel and Germany are expected to move towards systems that will soon give full combat autonomy to machines.