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Trojan Kill Switches In Military Technology

Soulskill posted more than 4 years ago | from the rockets-falling-out-of-the-sky dept.

The Military 392

Nrbelex writes "The New York Times reports in this week's Science section that hardware and software trojan kill switches in military devices are an increasing concern, and may have already been used. 'A 2007 Israeli Air Force attack on a suspected, partly-constructed Syrian nuclear reactor led to speculation about why the Syrian air defense system did not respond to the Israeli aircraft. Accounts of the event initially indicated that sophisticated jamming technology was used to blind the radars. Last December, however, a report in an American technical publication, IEEE Spectrum, cited a European industry source in raising the possibility that the Israelis might have used a built-in kill switch to shut down the radars. Separately, an American semiconductor industry executive said in an interview that he had direct knowledge of the operation and that the technology for disabling the radars was supplied by Americans to the Israeli electronic intelligence agency, Unit 8200.'"

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Open Source (3, Insightful)

toppavak (943659) | more than 4 years ago | (#29895669)

Its a good thing the DoD is taking a stronger, more positive stance towards open source software. I guess the next logical step would be open source hardware.

Re:Open Source (3, Funny)

wjousts (1529427) | more than 4 years ago | (#29895719)

Yeah, great idea. Let's have everybody know the inner workings of our military hardware so that they can build their own.

Re:Open Source (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29895757)

Why not? We've just had a glimpse into the inner workings of your pea-sized brain. Oh, and by the way: Whoosh!

Re:Open Source (2, Insightful)

GargamelSpaceman (992546) | more than 4 years ago | (#29896115)

I wonder if people from 2050 er 2060 where did the decade go? from 50 years in the future came back in time to now and dropped their latest microchip, if it would even be useful? Sure, they have picometer circuits, but so what? We still don't know how to make them.

Re:Open Source (5, Interesting)

Lumpy (12016) | more than 4 years ago | (#29896225)

Oh jeebus. Building a missile, bomb or anything that kills people is NOT HARD. I can get the relevant documents needed for anyone with a mild training in electronics to build a guidance system for a missile or a homing system for a rocket.

If you think there is something magical and wondrous in military hardware that makes it "special" you are watching way too much TV.

Hell I have made ground launched model rockets that would home in on a ground target, and I did not use GPS to get within a 50 foot radius from a 1500 foot apogee point. This was with very basic electronics and almost no processing power plus parts from a hobby shop for helicopter and RC plane flying.

I only needed 1-29/240 size engine to lift that payload. This was back in college for my EE degree, with todays stuff I could make the accuracy far better and use off the shelf GPS for long range AND would not need to lift as much as servos are smaller and lighter and the avaionics payload would be far lighter.

Note: you can even buy UAV kits today.

Re:Open Source (-1, Flamebait)

karlwilson (1124799) | more than 4 years ago | (#29896555)

Yeah, but your "ground launched model rockets" are just dumb rockets that go where ever they're pointed. It takes a hell of a lot more than just a rocket motor and some explosives to make a weapon that will kill effectively.

Re:Open Source (1)

d3ac0n (715594) | more than 4 years ago | (#29896709)

-1 reading comprehension failure.

Lumpy was saying that his rockets were NOT "Dumb" in that they could HOME to a general target area. he also noted that this was back in his college days, I'm assuming a not insignificant amount of time ago. He also stated that not only could you build a GPS capable homing rocket today, but that you can BUY OFF THE SHELF UAV kits!

Seriously. Did you even read his post AT ALL?

Re:Open Source (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29896645)

You are a terrorist and I claim my $5

Re:Open Source (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29896687)

True. I can also build a nuclear bomb using off-the-shelf technology, no noisy centrifuges, just lots of electricity (lots) and some unenriched uranium. The only use of secrecy at this point is to hide your criminal activities. Military secrecy is used primarily to hide the diversion of public funds to criminal purposes.

Re:Open Source (3, Insightful)

captaindomon (870655) | more than 4 years ago | (#29896741)

Ok, I admit watching Iron Man gives you some false impressions. But I am also well acquainted with folks who work every day on the tech side of the defense industry. To take modern weapons systems and try to even think of equating them with your little toy rocket is ignorant at best, and flamebait at worst. That's like saying it's easy to put a man on the moon because you have a scuba diving suit, and a spacesuit is the same thing with a fishtank over your head. Or a CS undergrad saying they can write an OS from scratch because they have played around with assembly a bit. What you think is exactly what many warlords think, and build their own little toy rockets that they have to point at an enemy, until they are wiped out by some of our niftier stuff without even seeing it coming. Give some respect where it is due, please. /end rant/

Re:Open Source (1)

TheDarAve (513675) | more than 4 years ago | (#29895731)

You forgot Open Source Intelligence, Open Source recruiting.... Next thing you know they'll crowd source 4chan against a religion...

Re:Open Source (4, Informative)

ElectricTurtle (1171201) | more than 4 years ago | (#29895771)

4chan is not your personal army...

Re:Open Source (3, Funny)

peragrin (659227) | more than 4 years ago | (#29896187)

Army no! An already organized unruly mob of idiots.

Re:Open Source (1)

ElectricTurtle (1171201) | more than 4 years ago | (#29896447)

If you think 4chan is organized I suspect you've never been there.

Re:Open Source (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29896601)

Which is probably a good thing

Re:Open Source (1)

BobisOnlyBob (1438553) | more than 4 years ago | (#29896681)

Have you seen a proper mobilisation of their numbers? Admins no longer fear the Slashdotting, but the Chanraid.

Re:Open Source (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29895747)

Just in case you are not aiming to a funny mod, Open Source (Software and Hardware) as good as it is, is probably not the end-all solution to this problem.

It takes HUGE amounts of resources (including time) and knowledge to do a full security audit that almost guarantees it's safe and killswitch free.

And sometimes it can be damn near impossible to figure out whether or not it really IS clean, since all it takes is a few subtle differences in behaviour to open up the door to attackers, which can go unnoticed to most people who aren't looking for them in particular.

Re:Open Source (1)

EvilBudMan (588716) | more than 4 years ago | (#29895753)

This is a good point or maybe a bad one depending upon which side you are on. I guess we need to be for open hardware, but really how would you know if the part is being supplied by the Chinese? It really would be hard to test for it. As for the Syrian stuff. That was just probably old Soviet stuff that got jammed by high powered AESA. No the Russians keep stuff to their selves like we do. They might sell countries weapons as we do, but there will something in there that is left out of the export package.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Active_Electronically_Scanned_Array [wikipedia.org]

The Russians probably didn't sell AESA to Syria or if they did it was cut down in some fashion.

Re:Open Source (1)

TheDarAve (513675) | more than 4 years ago | (#29895807)

"They might sell countries weapons as we do, but there will something in there that is left out of the export package."

Yea, the instruction manual.

Re:Open Source (1)

EvilBudMan (588716) | more than 4 years ago | (#29896191)

Funny, but maybe. I was thinking about the electronic warfare packages.

You see, I really just don't get it. Did we sell the hardware to Syria? If we didn't, I don't think that was the most like method used. I also think that the Israelis are just as capable of doing the same thing.

Re:Open Source (1)

PopeRatzo (965947) | more than 4 years ago | (#29896715)

I also think that the Israelis are just as capable of doing the same thing.

Selling military hardware to Syria?

Thatcher and Argentina (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29895717)

Didn't Thatcher kill the Argentina's French made missiles during the Falklands war with a remote kill code?

Re:Thatcher and Argentina (3, Funny)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | more than 4 years ago | (#29895781)

Thatcher probably just killed them with an especially icy stare...

Re:Thatcher and Argentina (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29895955)

Is a margaretthatcherfacts.com website in the offing?

Re:Thatcher and Argentina (4, Informative)

HawkinsD (267367) | more than 4 years ago | (#29895835)

Perhaps you're referring to the French-made Exocet missiles, launched from the Argentine Super Etendard planes? The 20 dead sailors on HMS Sheffield, sunk by an Exocet, would disagree.

Re:Thatcher and Argentina (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29896043)

Silly human, zombies can't vote!

Re:Thatcher and Argentina (2, Informative)

Xiph (723935) | more than 4 years ago | (#29895855)

Are you referring to the french made Exocet [wikipedia.org] missiles that sank the type 42 destroyer HMS Sheffield causing 44 casaulties, whereof 20 were fatal?

Re:Thatcher and Argentina (2, Interesting)

RegularFry (137639) | more than 4 years ago | (#29895867)

Given that the Argentinians didn't actually have any launchers for the Exocets in the first place, it's a bloody miracle any got launched at all. There's no mention of a kill switch anywhere that I can find, and given that they launched all four they had, and all but one are accounted for, the kill switch story sounds unlikely.

Re:Thatcher and Argentina (1)

MrMr (219533) | more than 4 years ago | (#29895893)

She didn't do a very good job at it then: read up on your recent history [naval-history.net]

Re:Thatcher and Argentina (4, Interesting)

C0vardeAn0nim0 (232451) | more than 4 years ago | (#29896489)

most of the exocets the argentinians had were naval versions designed to be lanched from ships. since they were keeping their ships away from the combat zone after a british sub sunk ARA general belgrano.

after that they were left with the very few aircraft lanuched units they had. in the end, 3 hit. one in the HMS sheffield, two on MV atlantic conveyor. sheffild sunk near the exclusion zone. atlantic conveyor lost the cargo and was towed back to england, then scuttled bacuase the damages were so extensive it'd be cheaper to build another ship thank repair her.

to tell the truth, the argentinians were ONE exocet away from winning the war. if they had scored one fatal hit against HMS invincible, that would have given them the war and the malvinas islands. unfortunatelly, our "hermanos" only had one left. the super etendards atacked the invincible with support of four A4 skyhawks, but the exocet only caused superficial damage, and the bombs from the skyhawks missed.

thus the british kept their islands.

disclaimer: i'm brasilian, was alive during the war and living in rio grande do sul, a brasilian state that shares a large border with argentina.

Syria, you morons (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29895739)

That's what you get for not building the hardware yourself. We on the other hand have been intelligent enough not to outsource our industries to foreign countr... Doh.

It's not very sophisticated after all (4, Funny)

paiute (550198) | more than 4 years ago | (#29895741)

(ring)
Hello. Syrian Air Defence.
Hello, Mr. Air Defence. My name is Raji - I mean Bob - from technical support. I have a service request you made on your Acme 2001 Target Tracking Module.
What? We are not having problem with that -
Now, now. I have to clear this ticket, Mr. Air Defence. You wouldn't want me to get into trouble, would you?
Well, no, I guess not.
Ah. Good then. Please reboot your system and we can get started solving your problem.

Lesson learned? (3, Insightful)

miffo.swe (547642) | more than 4 years ago | (#29895743)

Dont buy important technology from foreign countries, do it yourself. Especially if you ever under any way, shape or form could cross paths with said foreign country.

I think this should be a really big wakeup call to european countries that relies 100% on american tech, both on hardware and software.

Re:Lesson learned? (2, Insightful)

MickyTheIdiot (1032226) | more than 4 years ago | (#29895931)

Lesson learned? You must be joking.

The military/corporate complex won't be happy until EVERYTHING is made overseas. It's better for their short-term budgets, you see. They know they would be first against the wall if there was ever any real problems here so why care if we're caught with our pants down militarily later on.

Re:Lesson learned? (3, Insightful)

EvilBudMan (588716) | more than 4 years ago | (#29896033)

--They know they would be first against the wall--

No they don't know that or they wouldn't be doing this in the first place. I agree with your other assessments of short term thinking but they think they will get away with it and we will be left holding the bag. How many Nazi war criminals got away percentage wise? Few? Half? Most all of them?

Re:Lesson learned? (4, Insightful)

OzPeter (195038) | more than 4 years ago | (#29895945)

Dont buy important technology from foreign countries, do it yourself. Especially if you ever under any way, shape or form could cross paths with said foreign country.

And in TFA they say that only 20% of chips are manufactured in the US - so that makes it kinda hard not to buy goods from foreign countries.

However what you are suggesting is that 100% of goods used by the US military should be made in the US - and that might be a good reason in itself as that would certainly stimulate the US economy

Re:Lesson learned? (1)

MBGMorden (803437) | more than 4 years ago | (#29896537)

However what you are suggesting is that 100% of goods used by the US military should be made in the US - and that might be a good reason in itself as that would certainly stimulate the US economy.

Indeed. I've never understood any decisions to do otherwise. For example when the military wanted to replace their standard sidearm (The Colt M1911 - 84 years in service, but it was due for a change) they ended up going with a Beretta!?!?!

An Italian company. For a handgun. Now, that's not to knock the Beretta M92. It's a good gun, but there are equally good American guns that would have done just fine. Most police departments (not technically military, but still goverment) have also gone with Glocks - an Austrian company. Ruger, Springfield, Colt, and Smith & Wesson are all American companies, and all make top notch handguns. Between all those I'm sure they could have gone with a domestic company and kept that money within our own economy.

I'm sure the same thing has happened time and time again. At some point we are going to have to start making stuff again (and buying our own stuff so that we bolster our own economy). From a world economy point of view, China, Europe, and the other countries aren't going to be content forever to just keep shipping us cheap crap to put into Wal-mart while all we do is sit around doing things for each other in our "service oriented economy".

Re:Lesson learned? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29895963)

are you a retard ?

Re:Lesson learned? (1)

tokul (682258) | more than 4 years ago | (#29895993)

I think this should be a really big wakeup call to european countries that relies 100% on american tech, both on hardware and software.

Technically Siria is not in Europe, but in Middle East. Europeans don't have 100% dependency on American stuff. They have Eurofighter, Airbus, Heckler & Koch, locally build tanks, self propelled howizers and AFVs

Re:Lesson learned? (0, Flamebait)

Chris Mattern (191822) | more than 4 years ago | (#29896113)

Well, they can't. There's not a chip fab anywhere in Syria. Hell, there aren't even any in the US, anymore.

Re:Lesson learned? (1)

afidel (530433) | more than 4 years ago | (#29896311)

BS, there are plenty of fab plants still in the US. Micron, IBM and Intel definitely have production US plants and those are just the ones I know of off the top of my head.

Re:Lesson learned? (3, Funny)

Trent Hawkins (1093109) | more than 4 years ago | (#29896163)

Dont buy important technology from foreign countries, do it yourself. Especially if you ever under any way, shape or form could cross paths with said foreign country. I think this should be a really big wakeup call to european countries that relies 100% on american tech, both on hardware and software.

Why? Is America planning to invade France?

Re:Lesson learned? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29896221)

Stopped by there in '45, decided it wasn't worth sticking around.

Re:Lesson learned? (1)

R2.0 (532027) | more than 4 years ago | (#29896305)

"Why? Is America planning to invade France?"

Of course not. There are no "plans" to invade France - we just show up with guns and the French Army surrenders. Although they we might have to tap them on the shoulder to get their attention - they've always previously surrendered while facing west.

And for those who would draw a negative example with Iraq, I'd point out that the likelihood of developing suicide bombers from the native French population is, well, nil.

Re:Lesson learned? (1)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | more than 4 years ago | (#29896621)

"I'd point out that the likelihood of developing suicide bombers from the native French population is, well, nil."

I'd recommend that you google around for the phrase "Propaganda of the deed". Reasonably enough, French anarchists generally preferred to avoid absorbing their own explosions; but they had a more than adequate taste for risks and high explosives.

Re:Lesson learned? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29896175)

Unfortunately DIY doesn't work so well when you need advanced aircraft and ships that can launch them. It probably takes tens of thousands of engineers to design and manufacture an F-22, most countries don't have that many, so how can they DIY?

Re:Lesson learned? (2, Informative)

Hal_Porter (817932) | more than 4 years ago | (#29896259)

That's assuming you can do it yourself. Syria is hardly a hotbed of industry and innovation, and most of the Middle East is even worse. E.g. when Libya gave up their "nuclear and biological weapons program", which had been reasonably well funded and resourced over several decades had lead to only one viable weapon, a landmine spiked with human faeces.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2003/dec/21/politics.libya [guardian.co.uk]

Libya's biological weapons programme too has suffered from similar mismanagement and lack of funds, say sources; at best succeeding in producing munitions boobytrapped with human faeces that can be fatal if it enters the blood stream.

So it's not too surprising these sorts of countries decided to buy stuff from the USSR instead. Unfortunately for them the Russians had a cunning plan with weapons. Soviet weapons systems actually came in two variants - a high end one to be made in peace time and a stripped down one to be made in a war quickly and in larger quantities. The export customers got the stripped down version, known as the 'monkey model'.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Monkey_model [wikipedia.org]

The term was popularized in the West by Viktor Suvorov, in Inside the Soviet Army. Suvorov states that the simplified monkey model was designed for massive production in wartime, to replace front-line stocks if a war should last for several weeks. In peacetime, Soviet industry gained experience building both standard and monkey-model variants, the latter being for sale "to the 'brothers' and 'friends' of the USSR as the very latest equipment available." He also cites the benefit of disinformation when an exported monkey model fell into the hands of Western intelligence, who "naturally gained a completely false impression of the true combat capabilities of the BMP-1 and of Soviet tanks".

I.e. the monkey model looked the same or similar to the domestic version but was cheaper to make and had far inferior capabilities.

Re:Lesson learned? (1)

Mark_in_Brazil (537925) | more than 4 years ago | (#29896451)

Dont buy important technology from foreign countries, do it yourself. Especially if you ever under any way, shape or form could cross paths with said foreign country.

I think this should be a really big wakeup call to european countries that relies 100% on american tech, both on hardware and software.

I found it very upsetting to learn that the Brazilian government set up a PKI, but bought all the components for the vault with the root private key from US vendors.

I went inside that vault to install the network synchronization server that gets the time from the Brazilian National Observatory and makes sure the machines inside the vault are set to Brazilian Legal Time, and I was impressed with the security measures the Brazilian government had taken, but I was just shocked that they would buy components, for example, from a foreign company that has ties to the NSA and is called Spy-R-Us (Spyrus).

In the end, I doubt the foreign-bought components have compromised the security of the Brazilian government's root CA private key, but I was surprised that there wasn't more of a push to use Brazilian-made equipment. I apparently wasn't the only one, because Brazil created a project to develop its own open cryptographic platform. It's called the "João-de-Barro Project," named for a South American bird that builds its own house out of mud. The software parts of that project have been used to generate a new AC root keypair. I believe a Brazilian-designed HSM already exists, but I'm a little bit behind, because I stopped working actively with cryptographic hardware a couple of years ago. But I think this [kryptus.com] might be it (page in Portuguese, for obvious reasons).

Trojan kill switch (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29895749)

Whatever happened to Paris, Helen, and Hector's wife anyway? Did they get away and start a new Trojan empire somewhere else??

Outsourcing (5, Insightful)

whisper_jeff (680366) | more than 4 years ago | (#29895765)

You get what you deserve when you outsource...

Seriously, I understand the cost benefits of going with the lowest quote and all but sometimes it's best to keep things "in house" to ensure quality and accountability. And that applies to companies all the way up to governments. In this case, when dealing with national defense, it especially applies to governments...

Re:Outsourcing (1)

R2.0 (532027) | more than 4 years ago | (#29896441)

I think it's valuable to point out that, at least where small arms are concerned, the US military is quite aware of that. While many foreign designs have been adopted, the companies are required to establish production facilities in the US.

This will stimulate growth in the weapons industry (0)

samjam (256347) | more than 4 years ago | (#29895777)

This will stimulate growth in the weapons industry, and therefore growth in espionage operations, increase the likelyhood of serious diplomatic incidents and therefore War.

That's War with a capital W were the enemy has equipment that is not under your control.

So it's a nice idea, but it only works in the short term - i.e. until you use it. Then the clock ticks to when it's useless.

Re:This will stimulate growth in the weapons indus (1)

Culture20 (968837) | more than 4 years ago | (#29896001)

That's War with a capital W,

which rhymes with Cue, and that stands for Pool!

Don't buy weapons from your enemies? (4, Insightful)

Seth Kriticos (1227934) | more than 4 years ago | (#29895811)

Seriously, if you are going to wage war, it is a very bad idea to buy non trivial weapons systems from your enemy or his allies. Actually it's a bad idea to buy it from anyone that is not 100% on your side. Best would be to build it yourself.

Those amateur war mongering folks down there. Still don't think that anyone is learning out of it, I mean, where are the chips for NATO equipment come from? Oh yea, who manufactures them cheapest. How does this make sense in the context?

Re:Don't buy weapons from your enemies? (1)

ElectricTurtle (1171201) | more than 4 years ago | (#29896009)

This is why it's so important for Taiwan/ROC to continue programs like the Indigenous Defense Fighter, but the KMT is too busy irrumating the PRC to pay any attention to real interests of their own constituency.

Re:Don't buy weapons from your enemies? (1)

the linux geek (799780) | more than 4 years ago | (#29896697)

Why? Its irrelevant anyway, the only way the ROC can win a military conflict with the PRC is to launch a preemptive attack on the Communist SRBM facilities. If every airfield and military harbor on the island is hit by SRBM's (there are over a thousand sitting there) it becomes a lot harder to muster an effective resistance.

All of this has happened before, and ... (0)

sinator (7980) | more than 4 years ago | (#29895815)

Frakkin' Baltar!

Syrians have U.S. military hardware ? (4, Insightful)

ivan_w (1115485) | more than 4 years ago | (#29895823)

Does that mean that the U.S. provided *Syria* with sensitive military hardware (ok.. with built-in kill switches) ?

If they didn't then it's not a kill switch and the U.S. simply provided their Israeli allies with electronic warfare technologies.

It was my understanding that syrian military hardware was russian based anyway..

So I'm not sure I understand the whole thing..

--Ivan

Re:Syrians have U.S. military hardware ? (2, Insightful)

confused one (671304) | more than 4 years ago | (#29895939)

Sure, it's possible the Syrians have US hardware. We sell to Country x. Country x ships to Country y. Country y sells to Syria. It happens. Sometimes, that works against the U.S. and its allies. Sometime... it works for the U.S. and its allies

Re:Syrians have U.S. military hardware ? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29896211)

Nah they just stopped em at the border and searched their laptops.

Re:Syrians have U.S. military hardware ? (4, Insightful)

ElectricTurtle (1171201) | more than 4 years ago | (#29895967)

Maybe some of the US hardware from Iran during the Shah era has flowed to Syria? That's the thing with military hardware, once you sell it to somebody, there's very little you can do to keep them from passing it to somebody else. In that context, kill switches are genius (assuming the 'enemy' doesn't hack your Gibson).

Re:Syrians have U.S. military hardware ? (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29895999)

America's ability to influence what goes into enemy military hardware isn't constrained by what we directly supply. With proper access and funding, we can influence what they build at home too.

Integrated air defence (3, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29896127)

My understanding is that they took out the NETWORK and COMPUTERS connecting all the weaponry, not the weaponry. So while the guys in the missile batteries were playing cards, or whatever, the search radar was showing cartoons, and nobody ever woke the general up with an attack warning until the bombs dropped. Lieutenants do not shoot missiles unless the general says it is OK.

This happens quite often in many devices (5, Funny)

ctrl-alt-canc (977108) | more than 4 years ago | (#29895833)

My PC for sure has a kill switch somewhere. Now and then an odd blue screen with a funny message appears on the screen. I wonder who is operating the switch and why...

Re:This happens quite often in many devices (0)

Culture20 (968837) | more than 4 years ago | (#29896095)

It's called non-ECC RAM. Fastest kill switch ever.

If they do... (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29895849)

This the Syrians do have US military hardware, they should demand their money back.

Re:If they do... (1)

TechMouse (1096513) | more than 4 years ago | (#29896343)

May I be the first to wish the Syrians the best of luck with that.

modified hardware (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29895891)

I can't say whether we modified hardware being shipped to overseas contractors at the governments request. I also can't say where that hardware was shipped or where we thought it was going to end up. I also can't say whether we were able to later identify that hardware based on data embedded in its output. I'm sorry, I can't answer your questions; I can neither confirm nor deny your acusations.

Riiight (5, Insightful)

Culture20 (968837) | more than 4 years ago | (#29895921)

I'm not usually a fan of conspiracy theories, but "signals to turn off radar" seems more like a coverup to protect the Mossad agents who really turned off the radar. You can theoretically only use a kill signal like that once, but Mossad agents are much more versatile.

Re:Riiight (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29896013)

That sounds quite a bit more plausible.

Re:Riiight (1)

Daniel_Staal (609844) | more than 4 years ago | (#29896067)

Also, kill switches of this sort are kinda stupid: It's intentional bugs, and intentional security by obscurity. You just hope your enemy hasn't hacked your system through the backdoor you put in.

(Of course, this assumes you are building the hardware yourself. If you are buying it from someone, expect these to be there in case they ever decide they don't want to be your friends.)

Re:Riiight (1)

IndustrialComplex (975015) | more than 4 years ago | (#29896617)

Also, kill switches of this sort are kinda stupid: It's intentional bugs, and intentional security by obscurity. You just hope your enemy hasn't hacked your system through the backdoor you put in.

Why would you put it in your hardware?

I'm using system 3474. I'm selling you system 3474.

It's just that my system 3474 has subcomponent 7474 from Lot 243 from TI. Your system 3474 has subcomponent 7474 from lot 241 from TI.

Same part/version numbers on every component.

Re:Riiight (5, Interesting)

R2.0 (532027) | more than 4 years ago | (#29896165)

Here's another explanation - it's a red herring. By floating this story, you kill 2 birds:

1) It "explains" the lack of Syrian response in a way that maintains security on the real capabilities of Israeli jamming, and

2) It sends foreign powers on a wild goose chase, spending resources trying to root out "kill switches" that aren't there. This takes away from resources that could be spent improving the system's ability to see through jamming.

The elegance is that it has JUST enough plausibility that it can't be ignored, due to the (now) well publicized Soviet gas pumping station sabotage.

Re:Riiight (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29896455)

...well publicized Soviet gas pumping station sabotage...

Which was itself a fabrication. But your point stands.

Re:Riiight (1)

sampas (256178) | more than 4 years ago | (#29896217)

This isn't new. This happened in the US. NORAD's COBOL code was written so that US radar would go down when Soviet fighters entered a particular radar zone. Fortunately, an airplane hit the airspace and NORAD went dark. The investigation revealed a malicious COBOL programmer paid by the Soviets. I can't remember exactly where I read this, but it's in one of the references in Ross's Security Engineering book.

Re:Riiight (4, Interesting)

LWATCDR (28044) | more than 4 years ago | (#29896361)

Maybe or it could just be that the US has samples of all these radar systems and found the best way to jam or overload them.
Nothing is perfect so I am sure they have torn those system apart and found any weakness. The US then shared that information.
Kind of like in WWII when the US found a Zero.
They found that the Zero had a longer range, could out climb, out turn, and was faster than the F4F fighters the US had. The only thing advantage the F4F had was that it could out dive the Zero and as built like a tank.
The one problem it had was at high speed it didn't turn well to the left. So F4Fs made diving attacks at high speed and turned left to escape. The F4F ended up with a very good kill rate when dealing with the Zero.
If you can find a weakness and exploit it you will often win.

Dude, shut up! (1, Insightful)

jafiwam (310805) | more than 4 years ago | (#29895991)

That dude is going to get himself killed by Mossad if he's not careful.

What, did you think the Russians, Germans, Americans, and Chinese are going to risk facing their own stuff?

Morons. Of COURSE there are kill switches in all the things that are sold to the third-worlders. Duh.

Semiconductor Executive Should Be Investigated (4, Insightful)

fwr (69372) | more than 4 years ago | (#29896019)

So there's a semiconductor executive that is talking about classified information in an interview? His/Her clearance should be revoked, at least temporarily, until an investigation can be performed to determine whether any laws were broken, and how long the executive should serve.

Re:Semiconductor Executive Should Be Investigated (1)

nanoakron (234907) | more than 4 years ago | (#29896151)

Or at least until he can be tracked down and killed by Mossad/The CIA/MI6 etc...

-Nano.

Re:Semiconductor Executive Should Be Investigated (1)

RMH101 (636144) | more than 4 years ago | (#29896411)

Unless, for example, he was asked to spout this as disinformation. It might make an intelligence agency quite happy to have eyes turned away from alternative methods to shutting these things down.

Re:Semiconductor Executive Should Be Investigated (1)

R2.0 (532027) | more than 4 years ago | (#29896543)

"So there's a semiconductor executive that is talking about classified information in an interview? His/Her clearance should be revoked, at least temporarily, until an investigation can be performed to determine whether any laws were broken, and how long the executive should serve."

Unless he was asked to "confirm" it by US intelligence as part of a cover story for the REAL reason the Isrealis were able to take out the systems.

I call BS (1)

gsaraber (46165) | more than 4 years ago | (#29896045)

I have a feeling they just didn't shoot due to some command&control screwup and there is no killswitch..

Re:I call BS (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29896139)

I think you're correct on this, consider if there is a kill switch you have to assume the device has:

a: access to an open network and an OS that allows direct hardware interaction

b: a built in RF receiver.

This whole story was dreamed up by someone who was blown away by the way the Cylons shut down the Colonial defense grid.

Re:I call BS (1)

RMH101 (636144) | more than 4 years ago | (#29896449)

You mean something like a missile control radar? Something tells me the entire point of one of those would be to pickup an incoming RF signal! Who's to say there's not a ping-of-death that could be sent to one to turn it off? What are you going to do, debug embedded processors etc?

So... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29896055)

Unit 8200 is responsible for my Windows PC crashing...

Standard operating procedure (4, Interesting)

spikesahead (111032) | more than 4 years ago | (#29896057)

In the cold war the united states did this several times to the USSR, one notable example was a gas pipeline explosion caused by a specifically sabotaged piece of software.

Here is an article detailing the event;
http://news.zdnet.co.uk/software/0,1000000121,39147917,00.htm [zdnet.co.uk]

The USSR attempted in several instances to steal or otherwise acquire technology from the united states, and whenever this was detected our counter-intelligence services would provide flawed or otherwise sabotaged technology in place of the actual information sought. This had the desired cascading effect of the USSR unable to trust any technology that may have been introduced from non-USSR sources and was considered an extremely significant part of the eventual collapse of the USSR.

The Chinese and Windows (2, Insightful)

kurt555gs (309278) | more than 4 years ago | (#29896069)

I understand why the Chinese don't want to use Windows in their defense systems. I am sure there are back doors to encryption, and remote access, and all kinds of sneaky things that the CIA can do to anyone using Microsoft products.

Microsoft can say , no, its fine. Without the source code, how could you trust them?

Backdoor (2, Informative)

michaelmalak (91262) | more than 4 years ago | (#29896089)

IEEE Spectrum properly refers to the attack on the Syrian hardware as a "back door". The New York Times not only failed to use the Hacker's Dictionary [catb.org] , it failed to use the terminology from IEEE Spectrum, which it even hyperlinked to.

What about a Trojan "Launch" Switch (3, Insightful)

cpu_fusion (705735) | more than 4 years ago | (#29896093)

Turning off your enemies defenses is one thing, but what about when stuff like this is used to make the enemy seem to be on the offensive?

Oddly (1)

njfuzzy (734116) | more than 4 years ago | (#29896107)

Oddly, I'm not sure I have a problem with this. It seems obvious that you shouldn't buy military resources from the allies of your enemies. If you can't make bigger friends, don't get in the fight.

Re:Oddly (1)

RMH101 (636144) | more than 4 years ago | (#29896463)

It's working pretty damn well for the Taliban, with their US-made Stingers...

Radars and kill switch (2, Interesting)

renoX (11677) | more than 4 years ago | (#29896123)

A kill switch needs external communication to be activated which can be quite impossible to implement in many case but radars are basically radio receivers so a specific sequence of radio impulsion at a given frequency could activate the kill switch..
Interesting.

American military equipment in Syria? (1)

tokul (682258) | more than 4 years ago | (#29896125)

Maybe they confused Jordan with Syria. Syrian military is based on Eastern technology. I don't think that SA-2 and SA-3, SA-8 use US radars.

Reminds me of David Gerrold's Rage for Revenge (1)

Kostya (1146) | more than 4 years ago | (#29896293)

In Gerrold's Chtorr series, they used this. A lot of US military tech was in the hands of rebels, and they just deployed a kill switch. But in the book, it was expressed as a last-ditch measure. Once you use it, everyone knows about it, and you lose the advantage. Suddenly all the US allies were very, very concerned, as they began to wonder what US technology wasn't booby trapped.

I'd be really surprised we'd just hand this over to the Israelis if we had it. I'd think we would be saving this for a major military catastrophe for the US--kind of a "oh crap, we are up against the wall and this is our only hope of stopping the enemy." Because you only get to use it once with real effectiveness. Blowing it on a raid by another country (who would have taken them out anyways) seems stupid.

The answer is clear: McAfee (1)

seniorcoder (586717) | more than 4 years ago | (#29896409)

Perhaps they should run McAfee to prevent this trojan? Then again, perhaps they don't want their defense systems to run slower than a snail that has taken an elephant tranquilizer.

Colossus, WarGames, Battlestar:Galactica (1)

DutchUncle (826473) | more than 4 years ago | (#29896431)

This idea isn't new. "Serious" science fiction since the 1950s has considered the more complex vulnerabilities of more complex systems, specifically including false takeover of control (Colossus and WarGames), malicious Trojan horses (Battlestar), and false triggering of safety/self-destruct signals (Keith Laumer's Bolo stories) (and yes, I know some of those examples aren't the highest quality, but they're well known). The only disappointment in this article is the apparent surprise expressed.

Kill switches and more (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29896457)

There are secret kill switches without a doubt. In some cases they are very sophisticated, like signal processing checks that look for frequency signatures that act as passkeys to enable backdoor commands. Also, there are specialized modules in commercial products that allow easy tracking of the devices that can be used for missile targeting. Come on, you had to suspect this... It is true and has led to kill/capture of several high value targets.

The Syrian radar disable code: (1)

Veramocor (262800) | more than 4 years ago | (#29896585)

I've obtained the secret code used to disable the radar systems:

1-6-3-0-9

Y'know... (1)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | more than 4 years ago | (#29896719)

If I were to have an "electronic intelligence agency" I would call it "Unit 2600".
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