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Israel

Um, excuse me? Someone has apparently managed to steal eight, yes, eight retired Pratt & Whitney F100 fighter jet engines that power F-15s and F-16s from an Israeli air base, according to an AFP article.

How on Earth did this happen in one of the world’s most security-conscious nations? I mean, each engine weighs several tons and requires a serious truck to move them. Can anyone say inside job? For now, the IAF is saying the engines were likely stolen for scrap metal. I mean, the F100 isn’t exactly cutting edge engine tech. Heck, depending on the variant, those stolen F100s may be the version that was plagued with so many problems that it prompted the U.S. Air Force to commission GE to build its F110 as an alternate engine to the F100 in the 1980s.

The real concern here isn’t the technology in the engines being stolen, it’s the fact that the IAF (or at least units at that base) is so corrupt that eight jet engines were stolen in plain view. You can’t exactly sneak them out of a hangar in your pocket.

Well, the International Atomic Energy Agency, the UN’s nuclear watchdog agency has come out and said that it strongly thinks that Syrian target blown up by Israeli fighter jets in 2007 was a secret nuclear plant.

While the IAEA hasn’t yet presented hard proof that the site was a nuke facility, it did find prelimary evidence of a nulcear program (uranium particles that Syria claims are from Israeli missiles) when it visited in 2008; after which it was banned from returning by the Syrians who could face action from the UN if found to have had a nuclear program. Keep in mind the U.S. has also come out and said that it thinks the site may have been a Syrian nuke facility being built with North Korean help.

From the AP:

The finding by the International Atomic Energy Agency backs U.S. findings and sets the stage for potential U.N. Security Council action against Syria.

Syria says the nearly finished building had no nuclear uses. It has repeatedly turned down IAEA requests to revisit the site after allowing an initial 2008 inspection that found evidence of possible nuclear activities.

Diplomats have told The Associated Press that a strong IAEA opinion that the Syrians were trying to build a nuclear reactor secretly would likely result in a Western push to report Syria to the Security Council.

A senior Western diplomat said Tuesday that push would come next month at the next meeting of the 35-nation IAEA board, with the initiative likely to get majority backing.

 

In case you haven’t seen it already, The New York Times ran an interesting piece last Saturday highlighting a host of clues suggesting the U.S. and Israel collaborated to build the Stuxnet worm that wreaked havoc on Iran’s nuclear program.

Among the more interesting facts presented, is that Siemens, the company whose industrial control computers were targeted by Stuxnet, gave the U.S. Department of Energy access to the software that the worm exploits so that the DoE could finds weaknesses in the software.

In early 2008 the German company Siemens cooperated with one of the United States’ premier national laboratories, in Idaho, to identify the vulnerabilities of computer controllers that the company sells to operate industrial machinery around the world — and that American intelligence agencies have identified as key equipment in Iran’s enrichment facilities.

Siemens says that program was part of routine efforts to secure its products against cyberattacks. Nonetheless, it gave the Idaho National Laboratory — which is part of the Energy Department, responsible for America’s nuclear arms — the chance to identify well-hidden holes in the Siemens systems that were exploited the next year by Stuxnet.

The article goes on to say that while the U.S. and Britain had trouble getting their copies of the Dutch-Pakistani-designed P-1 centrifuges —  the type used by Iran to enrich uranium — to work, the Israelis were able to do so. Their success allegedly opened the door for the U.S. to test Stuxnet on the types of equipment used at Iran’s Natanz nuclear facility.

The Idaho National Laboratory, which conducted the tests with the Siemens software, insist that the project was part of an overall effort to shore up U.S. cyber defenses against outsiders attempting to take control of nuclear equipment, not some effort aimed at figuring out how to sabotage Iran:

the Idaho National Laboratory confirmed that it formed a partnership with Siemens but said it was one of many with manufacturers to identify cybervulnerabilities. It argued that the report did not detail specific flaws that attackers could exploit. But it also said it could not comment on the laboratory’s classified missions, leaving unanswered the question of whether it passed what it learned about the Siemens systems to other parts of the nation’s intelligence apparatus.

Still, it seems like one heck of a coincidence that the U.S. government was working to discover weaknesses with the very industrial control system that was successfully targeted by what has been called one of the most sophisticated cyber weapons ever used.

Here’s the whole article.

By Kevin Coleman, Defense Tech Cyberwarfare Correspondent

Information began coming out in mid-January that the Iranian government was preparing to file a law suit against Israel for crimes against their nuclear scientists including the one that was named to head the Stuxnet cyber attack investigation. The regime went on to warn “Western Nations” if they had a hand in such terror effort. As you may recall from our earlier blog post, Majid Shahriari, one of Iran’s leading nuclear scientists who also was the leader for Iran’s investigation into the Stuxnet cyber attack on their nuclear enrichment program, was assassinated on November 29, 2010 while in his car and on his way to work in Tehran.

Intelligence analysis suggests that this action is the direct result of the arrest and subsequent investigation of what Iranian officials call a ten person spy ring that was said to be operating within Iran and involved in Stuxnet cyber espionage. Iran’s Intelligence Minister has been quoted as saying, “The network of spies and terrorists linked to Mossad was destroyed.” He went on to say the alleged spies “have confessed to being trained by the Mossad and receiving all of their equipment from that agency.”

It is difficult to say how deep this litigation will get into the details of the Stuxnet code and attack; but given Majid Shahriari was so involved with the Stuxnet investigation it is bound to be introduced into any court action that might occur. If court action does take place some interesting issues might arise due to all the attention Stuxnet has received.  For instance could this mean that Jeff Carr who received headlines like — ‘Jeff Carr: China Most Likely Candidate for Stuxnet’s Origin’ found on The New New Internet web site be called to testify for the defense?

Iranian Foreign Ministry Spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast disclosed few details about Iran’s litigation strategy and no mention has been made as to what international court will be called upon to address this challenging legal issue. We should all keep in mind that there is very little case law when it comes to acts of cyber aggression, let alone case law addressing murder and cyber espionage.  One thing is certain – this will be worth watching as it could set a legal precedent for future actions!

Israeli fighters scrambled and shot down an intruder bearing down on one of the nation’s nuclear facilities near the Dead Sea; the bandit was a balloon.

“Air force planes were scrambled after a suspicious object was seen,” a military spokeswoman told AFP. “It was shot down.” She did not elaborate.

Local news site Ynet said one of the planes fired a missile at the object “which was hovering close to the nuclear research institute at Dimona.”

It said the balloon appeared to be powered by an engine, but was unmanned.

This could be a runaway children’s balloon, an untethered hot air balloon or, if it really had an engine and was unmanned, a homegrown terrorist UAV. Security experts have long warned that the miniaturization of the everything from weapons to surveillance technology could easily be used by non-state actors to develop homegrown drones.

Maybe it’s this guy again. Kidding.

Here’s the AFP article on the affair.