Tag: pentagon

Brainwaves are the new fingerprints

mind readingA team of boffins has worked out a way of telling who you are by reading your mind.

Researchers at Binghamton University in US  say their ‘brain prints’ are 100 percent accurate and might have a new life in ultra secure systems.

They looked at the brain activity of 50 people wearing an electroencephalogram (EEG) headset who were asked to looked at a series of 500 images designed specifically to elicit unique responses from person to person – for example a slice of pizza, a boat, or the word “conundrum”.

They found that participants’ brains reacted differently to each image, enough that a computer system was able to identify each volunteer’s ‘brainprint’ with 100 percent accuracy.

Assistant Professor Sarah Laszlo said that when you take hundreds of these images, where every person is going to feel differently about each individual one, then you can be really accurate in identifying which person it was who looked at them just by their brain activity.

According to Laszlo, brain biometrics are appealing because they are cancellable and cannot be stolen by malicious means the way a finger or retina can.

“In the unlikely event that attackers were actually able to steal a brainprint from an authorised user, the authorised user could then ‘reset’ their brainprint,” Laszlo said.

Zhanpeng Jin, assistant professor at Binghamton University, does not see this as the kind of system that would be mass-produced for low security applications, but it could have important security applications.

“We tend to see the applications of this system as being more along the lines of high-security physical locations, like the Pentagon or Air Force Labs, where there aren’t that many users that are authorised to enter, and those users don’t need to constantly be authorising the way that a consumer might need to authorise into their phone or computer,” Jin said.

US not planning automatic killer robots

Robby the Robot - Wikimedia CommonsThe 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.


US government hands cyber-security to military

2010-12-20-wwiipropagandaridiculousThe US government has handed over the its sensitive cybersecurity role to the military.

The move is seen as a snub to the Office of Personnel Management, the agency at the center of last year’s scandal over one of the worst government data breaches known to the public.

US officials believe a Chinese espionage operation infiltrated OPM’s records accessing information on 21.5 million current and former employment or job applicants. Fingerprint images belonging to some 5.6 million people were stolen.

The Pentagon has been called in to overhaul the federal security clearance system. A new government office, called the National Background Investigations Bureau, will take over the job of running background checks on all federal employees, contractors and others.

The Defense Department will design, build and operate the computer system that houses and processes people’s personal information, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper and other officials said.

The White House wanted to use  ththe Pentagon’s expertise in national security and protecting US secrets.

OPM spokesman Samuel Schumach said that since the hack, the agency has started real-time computer monitoring, installed protections against unknown devices and adopted two-factor authentication, which adds a level of security beyond a single password.

The computer networks that hackers breached last year had been left vulnerable for years without basic cybersecurity protections, its internal watchdog told Congress.

In the new system, the Pentagon will encrypt data where appropriate and consider which information should be kept separate from the rest of the network.

The administration didn’t say when they expecte system to be operational. President Barack Obama planned to ask Congress in his budget next month for $95 million to build the computer system, but officials said development would start using the personnel office’s existing funds.


Pentagon furious with Raytheon’s GPS

babyThe Pentagon’s chief arms buyer is unhappy with Raytheon’s work on a ground control network for new global positioning system (GPS) satellites.

Defense Undersecretary Frank Kendall said the department would look to other options if Raytheon’s performance did not improve.

Kendall approved the revamped schedule after a December 4 review of the troubled programme which has doubled in cost to $3.6 billion.

Apparently the Pentagon looked hard at the project and the consensus was that it needed to continue” with Raytheon but with intense management.

Halting the programme and starting over would have added billions of dollars in costs and delayed completion by at least three years, Kendall said.

Kendall said he opted for the two-year delay instead of the 47-month delay initially proposed by the Air Force because Kennedy had assured him it was doable, and also because he did not want to “give the program that kind of latitude”.

Raytheon’s problems on the programme had gone on for years and the program “has not been executed very well,” he said.

Google Airlines is out of gas

The internet is all abuzz with the fact that US Sen. Charles Grassley (R, Iowa) is seeking an audit of the arrangements between NASA, the Pentagon, and Google.

H211 LLC , a holding company, is apparently the entity that Google executives formed to handle their dealings with NASA on their fleet of aircraft. H211 LLC signed an agreement with NASA to lease space at Ames Research – Moffett Air Park, located in the heart of California’s Silicon Valley. for $1.3 million per year to fly research missions for NASA at their own expense.

At the time, that sounded like an excellent quid pro quo. Additional H211 LLC would obtain a Dornier Alpha fighter jet which would be modified to carry specialty NASA test gear. I wrote about this for Mike Magee’s ITExaminer in 2008. At that time there were grumblings by the local residents concerned that additional flights would mean additional noise.

In the 1960s I worked on US Army aircraft, helicopters, and fixed wing, that were located at Moffett Field in Hanger One. At that time, Moffett Field was a US Navy facility. Hanger One was built during the Great Depression to handle the large dirigibles (my father was in charge of the roofing for the hanger). For nine months last year, workers rappelled down the outside of Hangar One to remove sections of contaminated steel and redwood siding. Now, it is a steel skeleton within sight of Highway 101 – Bay Shore Freeway. Thus, I know a great deal about Moffett Airpark, as it is now known.

In 2007, Google said that similar to the other H211 LLC/Google planes offered to NASA, the Dornier Alpha Jet was being outfitted with scientific instruments for NASA missions, including instruments that the other planes could not carry. Matt Furman, then an official Google spokesperson, said that because of the type of aircraft we are talking about, NASA now has the ability to do even more than they could before.

One of the reasons Google purchased the Dornier Alpha fighter jet is because CEO Eric Schmidt has a pilot’s license and cockpit experience in high-performance jet aircraft. The other reason is the rest of their aircraft, including a Boeing 767, Boeing 757, and four Gulfstream V’s along with two helicopters, would have to be recertified by the FAA (Federal Aviation Administration ) if NASA test gear were installed.

What has Sen. Grassley’s knickers in a knot is Google’s been buying jet aviation fuel at government prices. This allowed the Google aircraft to travel on sharply discounted jet fuel bought from the Pentagon at NASA’s Ames-Moffett facility. Moffett Airpark has a government contract with the jet fuel supplier who is the only aviation fuel supplier allowed on Moffett Airpark for security reasons.

Kenneth Ambrose, an executive with H211, said the company bought “the only fuel available at Moffett” and pays “full retail for hangar space that includes none of the ground support typically included in business aircraft hangers”. He added that the total value of H211’s payments and scientific of flights means NASA and taxpayers are “$2 million a year to the good for our presence at Moffett”.

Flight records from the FAA suggest that the vast bulk of the flights by the Google executives’ fleet have been for non-NASA purposes.

The Google/H211 LLC aircraft departed from Moffett a total of 710 times since 2007, FAA records show. The most frequent destinations were Los Angeles and New York, but the planes also flew 20 times to the Caribbean island of Tortola; 17 to Hawaii; 16 to Nantucket, Massachusetts; 15 to Tahiti and 4 of the jet aircraft, including the 767, took off from Moffett for Croatia this past July. The departures were just before the wedding in Croatia of Google CEO Larry Page’s brother-in-law, held in a medieval hill town near the Adriatic coast. Mr. Page attended as a groomsman and was photographed wearing his pet project eyeglass-like Google Glass computer at the altar.

Meanwhile, as of last year, NASA told Sen. Grassley that the Google craft had flown a total of 155 missions for it. All but 11 of those, however, had been flown by the small Alpha jet, a fuel sipper compared with the big aircraft.

What started Sen. Grassley on his investigation was a pencil neck Pentagon Col. who overheard a conversation from the private aircraft owners association complaining about Google’s special treatment. Sen. Grassley is asking the question: “are some executives getting a special deal on fuel,” and if so, is it available to other businesses? He said the setup raises concerns about the government’s role as a “fair broker with business is an responsible steward of tax dollars”.

H211 LLC has bought 2.3 million gallons of JP4 jet fuel since early 2009, according to Pentagon records viewed by the Wall Street Journal, paying an average $3.19 per gallon to $3.33 per gallon. Aviation JP4 jet fuel in the San Francisco Bay Area airports average just under $4.50 per gallon – similar to Grade 2 vehicle diesel fuel which JP4 is derived from.

Obviously it is great fun to pick on billionaires, especially when they are affiliated with Google. However, when you look at all the facts, there were not a lot of options for fueling the jet aircraft.

The only option is to land at a different airport, refuel the aircraft, and then land at Moffett Airpark, with a jet aircraft that has a full load of fuel rather than near empty. That is a safety hazard based on my experience working on jet helicopters and jet fixed wing aircraft.

Sen. Grassley also wants to have the passenger manifests of every flight by Google/H2 11 LLC aircraft since 2007. 

Pentagon to fight Snowden by sticking all eggs in one basket

The military geniuses from the US Department of Defence have come to the conclusion that the best way to defeat hackers is to put all of your data in one place.

The cunning plan is to consolidate its 15,000 networks into a single “joint information environment” which would be protected by JIE, a new set of security protocols.  The Pentagon calls this a “single security architecture” while most hackers would call it a “target”.

According to the Pentagon bigwigs, the protocols will make it easier to detect intrusions and identify unauthorised “insiders” who might be accessing a network.

National Defence Magazine says this brilliant idea comes from the chairman of the Joint Chiefs Army General Martin Dempsey.

The system will potentially save billions of dollars by eliminating redundant, overlapping systems, it is claimed.

Some are unhappy with the move. There is what planners call a “bureaucratic” reluctance to change the situation in the Pentagon, although we can’t say we are surprised.

The head of DISA, Air Force Lieutenant General Ronnie Hawkins, warned that JIE is pushing the Department into unchartered territory. He characterised the venture as the digital equivalent of the Lewis and Clark expedition to the western United States.

JIE will be financed under the Pentagon’s $23 billion cybersecurity budget. 

There is also the technology consideration as to whether 15,000 networks can coalesce into a common environment.

It will not be a single architecture but more of a “standard security architecture”. To stop insider leaks, the JIE will track network activity using “identity access management” technology.

Supervisors will look for warning signs of a potential insider threat, such as whether people are authorised to be where they’re at, and whether they have the administrative privileges they are supposed to have.

Snowden might have still slipped through the net, and with a consolidated network, he would have had access to even more data.

Pentagon backs Blackberry

The troubled Blackberry maker RIM does not get much good news lately as the world waits for its swan song, the Blackberry 10, to end up in the shops.

But it turns out that the smartphone maker still has chums at Washington at least among those who work in a five sided building.

The Pentagon said it would continue to support “large numbers” of BlackBerry phones made by Research in Motion even if it does start allowing the use of other smartphones.

There was some concern that the US military would stop using RIM completely.

However it turns out that it has taken a jolly long time to get some of the more elderly generals to use smartphones and there is some resistance about dumping them.

Blackberry also has a fairly secure network while Apple and Google are considered to be much more hackable.

The US Defense Department invited companies to submit bids for software that can monitor, manage and enforce security requirements for devices made by Apple and Google which would make the Blackberry redundant.

While losing some of its Pentagon business to other providers could deal another blow to RIM, it could have been a lot worse. Its worse case scenerio was that it would be dropped completely.

Now it will have to compete. True, its rivals are producing the demanded touchscreens but there are some indications that it might be a little tricky for Apple and Google to match RIM’s security system.

The Pentagon told Reuters that it was not moving away from its use of BlackBerry phones.

A spokesperson said that DISA is managing an enterprise email capability that continues to support large numbers of RIM devices while moving forward with the department’s planned mobile management capability that will support a variety of mobility devices.

RIM’s Paul Lucier pointed out that the way things had been worded, it was possible for his company to come out on top.

RIM’s BlackBerry Mobile Fusion product could also be used to manage Android and Apple devices, he said. 

US can launch preemptive cyber strikes

The US military is permitted to act pre-emptively if it detects an imminent threat of cyber attack.

US Defense Secretary Leon Panetta moaned to Reuters that under investment by America’s private sector and political gridlock in Washington stymied cyber security legislation.

In the meantime a presidential executive order was being considered “while we wait for Congress to act”.

Panetta warned that unnamed “foreign actors” were targeting computer control systems that operate chemical, electricity and water plants and those that guide transportation. Quite why China is training actors to attack US infrastructure is unclear. Perhaps it is hoping to use the Acadamy Awards as a cover for an attack.

Panetta said that he knew of specific instances where intruders have successfully gained access to these control systems. The hackers are building advanced tools to attack these systems and cause panic, and destruction, and even the loss of life.

At the moment aggressors could derail passenger trains, contaminate the water supply or shut down the power grid in much of the country.

In the private sector too few companies have invested in even basic cyber security.

The United States is making significant investments in cyber forensics to address the problem of identifying where the attacks come from.

He said that the country was seeing returns on those investments.

The Department of Defense had a mission to defend the country and would be ready to respond to attacks. Such pre-emptive action would occur only under certain, dire scenarios, he said.

If the US military detects an imminent threat of attack that will cause significant physical destruction in the United States or kill American citizens, it needs to have the option to take action against those who would attack them, he said.



US realises the Pentagon did not invent the net

It seems that over the pond, the US press is finally admitting that its glorious government did not really invent the internet.

For years the US has trotted out what amounts to an urban legend that the Pentagon created the internet to keep its communications lines up even in a nuclear strike. The legend has been used to explain why the US should control the internet domain system and not some international world body.

The legend was recently spouted by Barack Obama who used it as proof that the government really was important to the development of technology. He said that the internet didn’t get invented on its own. Government research created the internet so that all companies could make money off it.

However, according to the Wall Street Journal, some in the US have conceded that it was a lot more complex than that. By the 1960s technologists were trying to connect separate physical communications networks into one global network.

While the Pentagon’s Advanced Research Projects Agency Network did work in this direction, it was not about maintaining communications during a nuclear attack, and it didn’t build the internet.

Robert Taylor, who ran the ARPA program in the 1960s, sent an email to technologists in 2004 saying that what Arpanet had was not an internet. An internet is a connection between two or more computer networks and that was nothing like Arpanet.

Taylor said that the full credit should go to Xerox PARC labs, where he worked in the 1970s. It was there that Ethernet was developed to connected different computer networks for the first time.

Xerox PARC researchers realised that waiting for the government to connect networks was like waiting for Godot because ARPA was too slow and bureaucratic.

Xerox, having invented the internet, missed a major trick. It was only interested in selling photocopiers so its interest in Ethernet was only important because it meant a printer could be shared. It was Ethernet technology which connected networks together.

The real internet came along when Vinton Cerf developed the TCP/IP protocol, the internet’s backbone, and Tim Berners-Lee created hyperlinks. 

Gary McKinnon's mother hopes for Cameron's support

Gary McKinnon’s mother, Janis Sharp, has expressed confidence that David Cameron will tell US President Barack Obama her son can remain in the UK, following a direct appeal to Downing Street.

Sharp recently made a trip to the Prime Minister’s residence to appeal for a decision to allow her son to remain in the UK, after a lengthy extradition battle.

“I am confident that David Cameron will inform President Obama that the British Government has ruled Gary will remain in the UK and will be tried here if need be, just as other alleged British hackers accused of much more serious crimes have,” Sharp said to TechEye.

“President Obama has already stated in the first joint worldwide press conference with David Cameron, that because of the special relationship between our two countries, an appropriate solution would be found with regards to Gary.”

US authorities intended to extradite McKinnon following his hacking into the Pentagon and NASA.  However, McKinnon, who has Asperger’s, has fought extradition over a ten year period, though no decision has yet been made about his fate.

With a final ruling to be made this summer, the extradition agreement between the UK and US has been questioned in Parliament, with the case of Richard O’Dwyer adding to the debate.

Speaking with TechEye, Sharp talked of her campaign against her son’s extradition, which culminated in a march on Downing Street.

“I feel that by going in person to Downing Street it reminds everybody, not just Downing Street, that Gary has been under intolerable mental stress every moment of every day for ten years,” Sharp said.

A letter addressed directly to the PM wanted to point out “Gary did in fact meet the bar to refuse extradition according to existing medical report findings”.  A copy of the letter is at the bottom of the article.

The letter was signed by a number of public figures including David Gilmore, Sting, Graham Nash, Julie Christie and Trudie Styler, who accompanied Sharp to Downing Street.  A number of MPs and Lords also signed the letter “urging the government to look at the conclusions on extradition already reached by the Joint Committee on Human Rights.”

Sharp said that a meeting with Home Office Minister Damian Green has given her hope for a resolution which will see McKinnon stay in the country.

 “A one to one meeting with Home Office Minister, Damian Green had been arranged for me at the House of Commons,” she said. “Although I am not at liberty to report what was said, I feel very optimistic of a good outcome.”

Sharp also backed calls in the Commons to change UK-US extradition laws, which have been labelled one-sided.

“American citizens are never extradited if they were physically in America when their crime was committed; they are automatically tried in America.

“Britain should have the same criteria, including people in Britain having the same right to contestable evidence which they can dispute in their own courts prior to any extradition being allowed to take place.”

Sharp provided a copy of the letter sent to Downing Street:

SIR – This Friday is Gary McKinnon’s birthday – the 10th on which the spectre of extradition to America has hung over him.

The British Government must recognize that our extradition relations with the rest of the world are out of kilter both with accepted practice in other countries and with the most basic concepts of fairness.

Since the Extradition Act came into force in 2004, there has been an exponential rise in requests for extradition from Britain. Yet Britain still does not allow for judicial consideration of the correct jurisdiction for trial. Defendants are almost totally unable to prevent extradition, despite a high likelihood of incarceration abroad, even where no charges have yet been brought in the requesting country.

Britain has a history of respect for principles such as habeas corpus and the presumption of innocence. Our extradition arrangements are a stain on this tradition.

We call upon the Government to look at the conclusions on extradition already reached by the Joint Committee on Human Rights, and to commit itself to primary legislation in the Queen’s Speech.

The first duty of any Government is the protection of its own citizens.

Janis Sharp

Mother of Gary McKinnon

Lord Carlile of Berriew QC (Lib Dem)

Lord Maginnis of Drumglass (UUP)

David Davis MP (Con)

Dominic Raab MP (Con)

Zac Goldsmith MP (Con)

Caroline Lucas MP (Green)

Kate Hoey MP (Lab)

Hywel Francis MP (Lab)

Julie Christie


Trudie Styler

Graham Nash

David Gilmour

Shami Chakrabarti

Director, Liberty

Jago Russell

Chief Executive, Fair Trials International

David Bermingham

One of the NatWest Three

Julia and Richard O’Dwyer

Facing extradition

Chris and Elaine Tappin

Facing extradition

Ashfaq Ahmad

Father of Babar, facing extradition