Air Force Wants Software Spies

What if you could send a computer program to do the job of a spy, or a bomber, or drone? It sounds like science fiction — and it’ll probably stay that way, for a long, long time. But Air Force researchers think there’s enough to the idea to start funding a trio of companies for initial work into these attacking, snooping “Cyber Craft.”
cybercraft1.JPG“Using the Cyber Domain to conduct military operations… has significant potential,” an Air Force paper announces. Examples include long-term intelligence activities, like “being to monitor a military barracks, accumulate financial information on a potentially hostile nation, or provide status on the political climate of a South American country.”
Researchers think the programs could answer shorter-term, tactical questions, too. “Like who is in this building across the street, where are the tanks located in a particular town or village that is going to be entered by friendly forces, or whats the latest intelligence regarding adversarial forces in a particular town or village.”
Obviously, it would take more than a bulked-up Web crawler to get the job done. Cyber Craft would have to be able to hop from standard computer networks to electrical grids to wireless nets and back, over and over again.

Cyber agents will need to embody the ability to covertly travel across these mediums, constantly assessing the network layout, morphing itself as networks change, and remaining covert while maintaining the integrity of its mission. Increased use of data hiding techniques and data hiding detection techniques add additional complexity to the Cyber craft weapon arsenal… Cyber weapons will need to perform real-time continuous self-assessment of the adversarys detection capability and be able to make instant decisions to morph or self-destruct. Both these functions will be required in covertness and with the decision information sent back to its Cyber Craft home.

“As an example of a Cyber Craft application, consider a squad of marines entering a residential area,” the Air Force paper offers.

Current intelligence is about 20-mins old and the squad leader requires updated information. The squad leader finds an electrical outlet and plugs in. This outlet allows access to the power grid of the town and subsequently access to the adversarys computer network. The squad leader injects a Cyber Craft into the system, whose mission is to locate a) any insurgents or b) locate any hidden military facilities… The Cyber Craft detect[s] some activity at a military installation within 1000-ft of the Marines location. The Cyber Craft performs a ‘recce mission’ to gather intelligence on the insurgents (exact location, number, arms, etc.) and sends back data/information to the marines. However, in the meantime the marines have moved and have located a different means of connecting to the network. The Cyber Craft has ‘sensed’ this shift so readdresses the feedback information to the marines new location and port. The ‘Cyber Craft’ acquires a positive ID, and sends an alert message back to the marines that the insurgents are about to leave and may be heading their way… The Cyber Craft executes its orders (turns power off, locks the doors), sends back an acknowledgement and self destructs.

There’s not much of this that today’s software can do, the Air Force researchers acknowledge. “Agent development, agent size and complexity, detection technology, realtime agent learning and self morphing technology, RF and network penetration technology are a few of the technological challenges requiring additional investment.”
But the Air Force, earlier this year, did hand out contracts to three firms to start working the problem. Assured Information Security of Rome, NY got a $99,170 grant to “research and develop a CyberCraft software tool that will be able to covertly enter a network and move about the network to detect intrusions or other abnormalities.” Indialantic, FL outfit 3 Sigma Research is looking to build “Cyber Craft organized in to ‘cells’ to enhance survivability and increase resiliency to attack.” And Solidcore Systems, out of Palo Alto, will try to put together a system that include[s] a harbor (a host), and a dock (a control environment for Cyber Craft execution) and cyber craft themselves (ordinary programs that can get launched to hosts and run there).”
Of course, building the Cyber Craft, hard as it is, may wind up being the project’s simplest part. The real questions come if and when fighters start to deploy the things. For instance, “How can we trust the Cyber Craft to ‘do the right thing?'”

The goal is to develop a system that follows the ‘fire-and-forget’ methodology. However, with this philosophy comes the danger of a Cyber Craft morphing into something that performs unintended actions that would be harmful to friendly forces or provide an adversary with information about the senders intentions, position, etc. One way of controlling a Cyber Craft is have it ‘dissolve’ after completing its mission. However, depending on the level of the Cyber Craft (strategic, operational, and tactical) the mission length can go from minutes to years… Thus, the damage that can be inflicted by a rogue Cyber Craft could be significant.

  • Robot.Economist

    I’m hoping that the Air Force doesn’t expect a return in this investment for a decade. The key elements of this “CyberCraft” idea (artificial intelligence, information assurance software, user behavior modeling, and electrical grid communications) are not mature enough as individual technologies, let alone sophisticated enough for integration.
    The DOD is just now experimenting with user behavior modeling to build algorithms for hacker detection. The problem is that detection is worlds apart from the process of meaningful intelligence gathering. The former involves recording events that meet predetermined conditions, the latter requires carefully evaluating the events in the context of a larger cosmology of information.
    Call me old school, but until AI can mimic the sophistication of the human brain, effective intelligence gathering will require a human element.

  • zak822

    I neglected to mention the infinity of password gathering trojans, keystroke recorders and other such information seekers, all of which send the info back to the operator.
    And let’s not forget little gems like Chernobyl, that would simply destroy your system.

  • b

    What makes the DoD think that a squad’s enemies will have a network connection?
    Hizbullah did not have any and did not need any. They did win. So why come up with such bullshit.

  • Skyler

    Are you kidding? Do your research – the internet is where most terrorist related information and communication takes place. Even the American media has done an excellent job of reporting on this. As for flat out saying that it won’t work? Don’t you think that’s a little narrow minded? Almost every leapfrog technology out there historically had dozens of naysayers saying that they wouldn’t work, but research pressed forward because a few believed it could be done. Does the Bell X-1 sound familiar? I’m not saying it’ll happen tomorrow, but to dismiss it alltogether is ignorant. Look at what DARPA is capable of bringing to fruition. Almost every project they dream up is “out-there”, but they sucessfully demonstrate a large number of them each year.

  • Mr. Programmer

    This air force report is science fiction. Training the best learning algorithms currently available to do simple tasks (like recognize peoples’ names in text) takes hours on the fastest PCs available. This air force nonsense will never happen.

  • b

    ok, so I am dumb. Hezbollah didn’t win. Sometimes I am so confused by my stupidity. But I am willing to admit it.

  • WitchHunter

    He’s a Witch!!!
    Welcome to Massachusets.
    …oh wait, wrong year.
    He’s a terrororist!!
    Welcome to Anywhere, USA.
    Here you will find fleeting freedoms and no peace of mind as your supposed representatives overlook your problems, stub your freedoms, obliterate your paycheck and feed you BS. Great…
    Who’s brilliant idea is this?

  • benoit

    les guerres d’hier sont dj de la prhistoire,la guerre au Pakistan, Irak, ne sont que pour nos g nraux les derniers terrains de guerre, or les informations ont te retranscrit avec autant de paramtre qu’il y
    de cailloux dans une carrire…oui, la prochain guerre, digne d’une guerre iclaire d’Hitler, sera robotiser, mcaniser a outrance, je ne parle pas de drone, ni de satellite espion, mais d’engin capable de se mouvoir dans un milieu hostile
    le film Terminateur, bien que science fiction, reflte une certaine rbalit, que nous, refusons de croire, pensez donc, nous ne somme quand 2006 nous avons pas la technologie pour…dtrompez vous messieurs, si certain ont peur de l’arme nucl-aire, prenez garde la guerre de demain…
    par exemple, aujourd’hui le mercredi 20 septembre 2006 21h33 , les pilces d’un chiquier mondiale ce sont ddj misent en places, demain, le monde tournera comme aujourd’hui…mais les pisces se dplacent pas toujours comme l’on voudrait, mais, les fait sont ln…une guerre se preparent, une guerre se discute, une guerre se marchande, vous avez u la 1er puis la 2em, puis des conflits, des rvoltes…regarder autour de vous, votre bocal n’est pas un bocal, vous ntes dans l’ocan.
    ce logiciel D’assured information security/sigma research/solidcore systems, n’est qu’une maquette.

  • Aldo Arce

    I wan to go to the war.

  • blackhok

    ( i speak franch)
    bon je suis djamel 31 ans de l algerie j ai envoyer presque 6 messages, pour etre un nombre de votre systeme ,et j ai pas trouvh le juste adrsse ou koi je s ai pas ?,
    comme je ta dit je suis djamel 31 ans de algerie ,ingenieur en informatique, chomage pauvre ,et tous c est pour


    ce truc je le veux sa cera mon dergner logiciel espion aire force

  • vaughn_nebeker

    To help my friend at USAF TThe technology that put out cherobyl was never put in to the computer. whould need a program called bamboo didatel graphic’s.
    the only other data was used buy a USAF air force col to aressit a child epalisie.
    do to I never saw USAF [Cash]. the stuff that did work at cherobyl stay destroyed.
    govyt hard balling got the book’s destroyed.
    it were home land security proved it self a nasel security risk to naseal seurity.

  • vaughn nebeker

    the satalight had a nitagen cooled camria -600 * degree’s IT allows my air force friends pick up the locasen of suberines ‘s a usa sub’s as hot spot] russian sub’s as a hot, hot spot]. allow humen heat to show up around chernobyl. the camria can pick up sub’s 1,500″ feet under water.

  • Please send me the latest jet in the world

  • vaughn nebeker

    note: none of the techology is inthe computer.

    it not in a junck yard eather [ can not stealwgat not ondisk].

  • Write more, thats all I have to say. Literally, it seems as though you relied on the video to make
    your point. You obviously know what youre talking about, why waste your intelligence on just posting videos to your site when you
    could be giving us something enlightening too read?

  • Spy’s will not do it. You an not take something out of the computer when it never been put in.its what the Teflon the market been slipping on , for 30 years.