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Archive for June, 2008

Covering Up Cyber Assaults

Monday, June 30th, 2008


Cyber attacks from individuals, organized crime, extremist groups, terrorists as well as nation states pose a significant threat to the national security of the United States. While many believe that this is a government issue, closer analysis of the problem suggests otherwise. Any computer that is not properly protected can be compromised and used as a weapon against the system owner, businesses and our economy, the nation’s infrastructure or in some rare cases our defenses. Personal, business and government systems are constantly under attack and the frequency and sophistication of the attacks is rapidly increasing.

The number of new computer systems threat skyrocketed nearly 570 percent from those identified in 2006. According to one 2007 computer security study, the average annual loss reported by U.S. companies increased by nearly 210 percent to $350,424 (per occurence) in 2007. The top three primary sources of loss were financial fraud, losses due to computer virus and system penetration by outsiders. About 20 percent of the companies reporting security incidents said they have fallen victim to targeted malware attacks. Nearly 1.2 million different pieces of malware have been identified and reside in the malware repository. Malware is software designed to infiltrate or damage a computer system without the owner’s informed consent. The term is a combination of the words malicious and software. The expression is a general term used by computer professionals to mean a variety of forms of hostile, destructive, intrusive, or annoying software. The bad news is malware is just one of the many threats to computers, systems and networks.

A reader of the blog asked me “Why with all the U.S. technological expertise are we so vulnerable to these threats?” That is a great question. Considering a recent report suggested that around 90 percent of breaches could have been prevented, why are our computer systems so at risk?

After giving this a fair amount of thought I came to the following realization. It is our attitude! For some reason there is an abundance of “I know more than they do” types in information security. If that is not bad enough, the second most prominent attitude is “It can’t happen here” followed closely by “I will address it when it happens to me.“

Example 1 — A $13 billion publically traded corporation has five full time staff assigned to information security. When I asked the Director how he spent his time he said by far most was in the Human Resources Department and with corporate lawyers.


The Sunday Paper (Imminent Threat Edition)

Sunday, June 29th, 2008

This from Gizmodo. Somebody needs to get his slide rule adjusted, it appears.

(Gouge: CM)

– Ward

Fists Bared In Congress Over Tanker Tango

Friday, June 27th, 2008


From our boy Colin Clark over at DoD Buzz:

UPDATE: The House Armed Services airland subcommittee will hold a July 10 hearing at 2 p.m. in Rayburn 2118 on the tanker contract at which John Young, undersecetary of Defense for acquisition, technology and logistics, Sue Payton, assistant secretary of the Air Force for acquisition, and a representative from the Government Accountability Office will testify. ALSO, see below for information about a closed meeting today with House lawmakers, a GAO rep and one from the Pentagon.

That enormous sucking sound you heard at the Pentagon Thursday was the intake of breath by the senior OSD and acquisition officials who handled the tanker contract when they heard Defense Secretary Robert Gates offer almost no defense of the contracting process that led to the Northrop Grumman contract.

Gates was asked Thursday point blank if he had confidence in Sue Payton, assistant secretary of the Air Force for acquisition, who led the team that decided to award the contract. “I have confidence in the team until I find evidence to the contrary,” Gates said. Given the recent forced resignations of Air Force Secretary Mike Wynne and Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Mike Moseley, Payton must be getting ready to move out if asked since Gates also said the Government Accountability Offices report found that the “Air Force team made significant errors. At the same time, Gates did say he needs to get a better feel for the nature of criticisms” made by the congressional watchdog and had not made any decisions about the contract yet, adding that the “first indication” he had of trouble with the contract award was the GAO report.


Army Moves Up FCS Program Schedule

Friday, June 27th, 2008


From this morning’s front page of Military​.com:

Associated Press

WASHINGTON — The Army will deliver some key technologies to ground forces in war zones three years ahead of schedule as part of its $160 billion Future Combat Systems program led by Boeing Co. and SAIC Inc.

Senior Army officials on June 26 said changes to the FCS program will expedite the use of high-tech equipment, including unmanned sensors and robotics, to infantry brigades fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan by 2011.

Portions of FCS were expected to be used by armored units by 2014, but Army officials say the technology being developed is needed for the current war effort.

Lt. Gen. Michael A. Vane, director of the Army Capabilities Integration Center, said accelerating FCS and other complementary programs will help “filling the gaps” created by huge demands on the infantry brigades, while increasing the effectiveness and safety of U.S. soldiers.

Army officials maintain that while costs may rise in the short-term from the new schedule, they will balance out in future years and will not raise the program’s overall price tag, which has been criticized by lawmakers.

Lead contractors Boeing and SAIC said the Army’s decision to accelerate the FCS technologies shows confidence in the program’s progress. FCS includes 14 manned and unmanned systems that are linked through a secure communications network.

On Wednesday, Army Chief of Staff Gen. George Casey briefed Defense Secretary Robert Gates on plans to restructure the program. Gates, who backed the shift, told reporters at a separate briefing Thursday that FCS “deserves support.“

Dan Goure, a defense analyst at the Lexington Institute, said it appears that the Army “didn’t want to repeat the same mistake” as the Air Force in battling Gates publicly over F-22 jets made by Lockheed Martin Corp. Gates also has previously raised doubts about the FCS program.

“Clearly this show that Gates is in command in a way few secretaries have been of the services,” said Goure.


Major Iraq News…

Thursday, June 26th, 2008


…but you wouldn’t know it from the mainstream media.

Military​.com ran a story from our friends at Stars and Stripes which reported the Marines plan to hand over “Provincial Iraqi Control” of al Anbar province on Saturday (June 29).

Once the most violent place in Iraq, Anbar province will come under Provincial Iraqi Control on Saturday, a senior military official said Monday.

So far, nine Iraqi provinces are under Provincial Iraqi Control, or PIC, in which Iraqi security forces perform day-to-day operations and U.S. troops provide assistance as needed, the military official told reporters.

“When you PIC a province, the coalition force goes into what we call an operational overwatch: They’re there, essentially as a security blanket,” the official said.

Though the Washington Post ran a story on its Web site today which lead with the heinous attempt by AQI to disrupt the handover by bombing a provincial council meeting and killing an estimated 20 (which hits pretty close to home for me because I met some of these tribal leaders in the very place where the bombing occurred — see the picture above), the paper edition did not have a story on the handover, nor did the New York Times.

Remember, these were the papers that jumped on the leak of a Marine Corps Intelligence report in September 2006 that Anbar was lost. Wrote the NYTimes:

As the situation has deteriorated, insurgent attacks have increased. The report describes Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia as an integral part of the social fabric of Anbar.

Aside from being flat out wrong on that assessment, the stories painted a grim picture of the situation in Anbar and help solidify impressions (with an election coming up just a month later) that Iraq was a lost cause.


Parameters of an Iran Strike

Thursday, June 26th, 2008


A strike against Iranian nuclear-related targets could be carried out before the next US administration enters office.

Israeli military intelligence (AMAN) may estimate that Barack Obama has more than a fair chance of winning in upcoming elections. However, they may wait for the results before deciding to strike.

Ironically, an Obama victory will probably be the tipping point. Israeli MI is no doubt cognizant of the fact that Obama’s Middle East policy-makers will favor “diplomacy” and try to avert a strike at all costs.

However, the Israeli government may attempt to utilize the frightening specter of a strike to expedite the sale of advanced military equipment to the Jewish state.

A Likud government led by Benjamin Netanyahu (with support from Shas and other rightist parties) would be more likely to strike Iranian nuclear targets, much like Menachem Begin (against Osirak) in 1981.

There would be intense consultations with the outgoing Bush administration over the timing and scope of the strike, specifically regarding how it would affect the burgeoning price of oil.

– Aharon Etengoff

Another Good Look at the Sarcos Exoskeleton

Wednesday, June 25th, 2008

(I’m still partial to Troy’s suit, if not for the spot-on marketing techniques [joking])…

(Gouge: CL)

– Christian

Full (Redacted) GAO Report on Boeing Tanker Protest

Wednesday, June 25th, 2008

This just in, my friends. I haven’t had a chance to chop it yet but I invite the horde to slice and dice until I do…

GAO Decision Public Release.

– Christian

Top OSD Officials Think Tanker Deal Can Go Ahead

Wednesday, June 25th, 2008


Senior Pentagon and Air Force officials who have read the full 67-page report about the tanker bid by the Government Accountability Office think they can still grant a contract before the end of the Bush Administration. John Young, the Pentagons acquisition czar, has reportedly drafted a letter for the four congressional committees that oversee defense spending and policy informing them of the Pentagons decision to go ahead and award the contract to Northrop Grumman.

There have been reports that the GAO ruling on the tanker contract could add two years or more to the contract award, something that has greatly concerned Air Force leaders eager to start building new tankers after almost a decade of trying.

“Their finding is that the full document is quite different from the summary,” issued last Wednesday, said a source familiar with the issue. The source said Air Force leaders believe much of what was challenged is procedural and can be resolved without rebidding the deal.

The 69-page report is expected to become public today.


The Next Generation of UAVs

Wednesday, June 25th, 2008


The U.S. Air Force is initiating a program to develop the Next Generation Unmanned Aerial System (NG-UAS) or unmanned aerial vehicle while Washington is still in an uproar over the last major Air Force contract competition — the KC-X advanced tanker aircraft. And, the Air Force action takes place while the UAV picture is clouded by a protest filed in May against the Navy’s contract award to Northrop Grumman for the Global Hawk-derived RQ-4N aerial vehicle for the Navy’s Broad Area Maritime Surveillance (BAMS) system.

The notice to industry for the NG-UAV sent out by the Air Force in May seeks a follow-on UAV to the highly successful MQ-1 Predator and MQ-9 Reaper aircraft, the latter a much improved variant of the Q-1 series. Those UAVs — with the prefix letter “M” — indicating multimission — have proved invaluable in combat operations in Afghanistan and Iraq

The Air Force lists seven potential key missions for the NG-UAV:

  • Limited interdiction
  • Close air support/forward air control
  • Combat search and rescue support
  • Limited suppression of enemy air defenses
  • Joint maritime operation support
  • Intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance
  • Force protection (identifying threats such as IEDs, mortars, and rocket sites)
  • These missions are to be carried out in all low– and some medium-threat environments. 

    The NG-UAS platform is planned to have capabilities beyond existing UAVs. Compared to the MQ-1 Predator and the derivative MQ-9 Reaper, the new vehicle would have improved maneuverability and time on station among other features.
    The planned initial operational capability of the NG-UAS would be 2015. The MQ-1 Predator, developed by General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, first flew in July 1994; the improved Predator-B, which was redesignated MQ-9 Reaper, first flew in February 2001. Both have been produced in the hundreds. They have suffered significant losses in the combat area, albeit several losses being due to collisions with smaller, low-flying UAVs. Still, their efficacy cannot be questioned.