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UK Plans Cyber Weapons Program

samzenpus posted more than 3 years ago | from the ministry-of-pointy-sticks dept.

Microsoft 59

An anonymous reader writes "The Ministry of Defence says they are working on a range of offensive cyber weapons to increase the country's defensive capabilities. The armed forces minister, Nick Harvey, says, 'The consequences of a well planned, well executed attack against our digital infrastructure could be catastrophic With nuclear or biological weapons, the technical threshold is high. With cyber the finger hovering over the button could be anyone from a state to a student.'"

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59 comments

US's Fault (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36316956)

As soon as the US declares any cyber attack an act of war. Every country has to jump on the bandwagon -.-

UK looks nervously at N.Korea... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36316964)

"Mr. President, we must not allow a mineshaft gap!"

Re:UK looks nervously at N.Korea... (1)

lostfayth (1184371) | more than 3 years ago | (#36317052)

Strangely enough, the irony would likely be lost on those who made the decision.

huh? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36317030)

Offensive weapons to increase defensive capabilities. Why not increase understanding of proper coding to increase defensive capabilities? It seems to be easier to tear something down than to build it right. Git.

Re:huh? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36317220)

That's part of the problem with this country. We're too busy worrying about fighting pointless wars and worrying about our offensive measures to worry about building actual defense. We need to stop wasting money on all these offensive wars and focus more on defense.

Re:huh? (1)

ciderbrew (1860166) | more than 3 years ago | (#36317380)

You've never played any game CnC game?!? Camping out never works in the long run. You need both and more of one at different times. ALSO if people are too scared to hit you, you tend not to need it. Sure the US got hit in 11/9; but all that did what open up a trillion dollar spending frenzy chest to build more ordnance and some rape guys at US airports.

I'm sure there is some point to the wars. I can't see it. but there must be some point.

Re:huh? (1)

Dr Max (1696200) | more than 3 years ago | (#36317808)

Believe it or not world politics isn't like command and conquer, camping out does work quite well just ask Switzerland. The way to go would be spending the trillions they do on weapons on improving the world (maybe solving the worlds energy crisis) then no one would want to attack them.

Re:huh? (1)

ciderbrew (1860166) | more than 3 years ago | (#36317914)

I'm not saying war is great. I'd like the trillions spent on good things too. But spending money on defence is a waste if you cannot stop the offence. There is a waste to keep replacing obsolescence in defence. Best idea would be for people to get along on the space ship earth. Switzerland isn't camping out. They have nothing to take.

For an interesting take on wars and such watch Rob Newman's History of Oil.
http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=-5267640865741878159 [google.com]

Re:huh? (1)

Dr Max (1696200) | more than 3 years ago | (#36318642)

Funny guy and refreshingly open minded. Its not always about resources though Tibet hasn't got much neither does Vietnam or Afghanistan (granted Iraq does); also japan and Osama could never of dreamed of taking America's resources (Osama did get the US to waste alot of them though) yet they were still at war. As for Switzerland you have to admit for a country with nothing to take they are doing pretty well for them selves, and i think that's partly by not wasting there limited resources on offensive wars.

Re:huh? (1)

cavreader (1903280) | more than 3 years ago | (#36319662)

Switzerland camps out because it would last about 15 minutes in a war against any of the bigger militaries in the world regardless on how much they spent on defense. The only thing that would prevent this would be possesion of 1 or 2 nukes or a close friendship with another military dominate country. Sort of like Israel's ultimate fall back plan.

Re:huh? (1)

Hognoxious (631665) | more than 3 years ago | (#36317280)

Proper coding? More like not connecting anything that goes bang a lot to the internet. Another good idea is to make sure there's a carbon unit (or more than one) that presses the final button. They're less reliable but tend to fail in the safe direction.

Re:huh? (2)

AHuxley (892839) | more than 3 years ago | (#36317372)

Its the same line they use for http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Porton_Down [wikipedia.org]
If the UK wants to master its NBC suit production they "thought experiment" with the best offensive weapons they can dream up.
1. If the UK wants to master digital infrastructure they roll out very expensive Microsoft and watch everybody have a go at hacking it.
2. ?
3. Cyber victory
Its cost saving to have 1 expensive engineer watching a few counties critical infrastructure from a cheap Windows laptop after 5 pm but ... if s/he can dial in, so can other people.
They only thing the Ministry of Defence can do now is to make sure its www.secret-bases.co.uk/ are safe and wait for the next generation of UK politicians to finally understand that critical UK infrastructure has been wonderful for US shareholders.

Stop Pimping The Fear Mongering. (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36317034)

Thanks in advance,

Slashdots' Readership.

Reality called. It wanted its buzzwords back. (3, Informative)

the_raptor (652941) | more than 3 years ago | (#36317082)

"With nuclear or biological weapons, the technical threshold is high. With cyber the finger hovering over the button could be anyone from a state to a student"

What a crock. Any engineering student who couldn't design a fission based nuclear bomb is going to be a terrible engineer. Hell, the guy who has literally "written the book" on the Manhattan Project bombs is a freaking truck driver*. And you have the same with biological weapons. Contrary to what movies show most research into biological weapons wasn't about genetic modification it was simply on how to make the bugs easy to disperse and store. And most of it was done in the 50's and 60's. To combat misuse of both the answer has been to control the key ingredients of isotopes and germs.

With "cyber" weapons it is the opposite. It is impossible to control the key ingredient, and the 'state of the art' has moved far past the stage where individuals are dominant. Even in the criminal world malware is built by teams. The technical threshold is very high and no individual is going to pull off well planned and well executed attack against a nations infrastructure. The "cyber wars" we see now are all done by large teams of hackers. When nations start actively deploying "cyber warfare" units and the like it will further raise the technical bar.

P.S. The fingers actually "hovering over the buttons" of NBC weapons were mostly 18-20 year old kids. The systems you see in movies where the president needs to give a code so nukes can be launched is mostly a crock. The US Strategic Air Command famously set the "permissive action locks" on its nukes to the equivalent of "1111" because it believed the system was too complicated to be relied upon.

*http://www.amazon.com/Atom-Bombs-Secret-Inside-Little/dp/B0006S2AJ0

Re:Reality called. It wanted its buzzwords back. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36317164)

i think you missed the point. You cant just conjure up weapons grade plutonium in your mothers basement. Its alot easier to hack someones system with a single computer and free software.

Re:Reality called. It wanted its buzzwords back. (1)

the_raptor (652941) | more than 3 years ago | (#36317550)

I didn't miss the point I disagreed with the terrible attempt at getting the point across.

Also as far as I know no one has hacked modern critical systems with a single computer and free software. All the stuff making news is very sophisticated team efforts. Stuxnet required physically stealing encryption keys IIRC.

The kind of damage a single hacker can cause is probably less then what a single back-hoe operator can do. And foreign network attacks are probably less of a threat then foreign agents working from inside the critical systems.

Re:Reality called. It wanted its buzzwords back. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36322264)

No, I really do think you've missed the point.

Re:Reality called. It wanted its buzzwords back. (1)

AmiMoJo (196126) | more than 3 years ago | (#36317352)

I was expecting an announcement like this ever since the US hacking story broke. Osama is dead and there have not been any terror attacks around here for a few years. Despite the threat level being at "severe" for years people were somehow regaining control of their bowels so something had to be done.

fashion jewelry (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36317088)

I think people are intimidated by the thought of a blog, like maybe it means they have to reveal all thier deep dark secrets. You don’t, you can make it as personal or professional as you like. But show what you are working on, what you are looking at, and what you are thinking, and that is usually interesting to others

Eh? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36317092)

develop offensive weapons for defensive purposes....riiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiight

BOO! Heh, ScArY ain't it? (3, Informative)

VortexCortex (1117377) | more than 3 years ago | (#36317098)

Nick Harvey, says, 'The consequences of a well planned, well executed attack against our digital infrastructure could be catastrophic With nuclear or biological weapons, the technical threshold is high. With cyber the finger hovering over the button could be anyone from a state to a student.'"

Shuuure; The missile is just gonna arm itself, and intangible cyber villains are going to bypass the physical electrical & mechanical safety mechanisms.

Sounds like someone's been watching too much Lawnmower Man. If a team of cyber villains is all it takes to launch/detonate warheads, We'd all be dead by now. Yeah, theoretically you would need a hacker on your nuclear terrorist infiltration team.

I suggest you take a break from the Fear-mongering... Wouldn't you prefer a nice game of chess?

HEY DUMB-ASSES -- Here's a fucking idea -- Instead of running in fear, wasting tax payer dollars on protecting us from cyber triggered nuclear war -- Why don't we just say: "Fuck it! Everyone's got hackers now! -- Game over, we have to disarm all nuclear bombs in case an angsty 4chan goer decides to an hero via nukes."

Re:BOO! Heh, ScArY ain't it? (2)

stepdown (1352479) | more than 3 years ago | (#36317270)

I believe he's using "the button" to draw a parallel between an attack over the internet and somebody launching nuclear attack.

I didn’t take it to mean that hackers can easily control the systems capable of launching a nuclear attack.

I see where this is going (1)

Arancaytar (966377) | more than 3 years ago | (#36317100)

US, North Korea, China and the UK all decide to Cyber together.

If you can't control it (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36317108)

.... just break it.

That is all they want to do- apart form (ab)use it for evil purposes.

What weapons?... (2)

plaukas pyragely (1630517) | more than 3 years ago | (#36317112)

..military grade LOIC or what??...

Re:What weapons?... (1)

AHuxley (892839) | more than 3 years ago | (#36317438)

Think back to the IRA and the long reach of UK signals intelligence, other friendly intelligence services and what lots and lots of cash can do.
In the UK, game over.
In a country on good terms with the UK, game over.
The SAS can cover some areas.
Gangs, cults, home invasion, truck with poor breaks, unexpected medical issues, tax issues, deep political issues, gas leak, sucide, drugs, porn ect...

Nick Harvey is a wanker (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36317284)

Nick Harvey is a wanker

Re:Nick Harvey is a wanker (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36319314)

"Insightful"? Really? "Obvious" maybe.

UK inventions (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36317336)

It only takes a small effort to weaponize ITIL.

This is how we do things over here (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36317388)

I give it two months before sone local council is using these "cyber weapons" to punish people putting out bins for collection on the wrong days.

Re:This is how we do things over here (1)

AHuxley (892839) | more than 3 years ago | (#36317580)

Your internet shaped to 56k for 2 weeks if they find a pizza box in the wrong bin?

News? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36317392)

Bullshit news. When surfing the Web 15 years ago I remember very well when I stumbled over the official pages of some .mil sites that developed electronic weapons, e.g. a Navy research laboratory that was specialized in electronic warfare (among other things). Of course, the pages were pretty vague but nevertheless it seems plausible to assume that the US has been building offensive "cyberwapons" at various research laboratories at least since the end of the 90s. Moreover, the NSA was probably among the first institutions worldwide to massively use all-purpose computers; it would be outright bizarre if nobody there had ever considered writing a virus to infiltrate enemy systems up until now...

Wrong paradigm (4, Informative)

goodmanj (234846) | more than 3 years ago | (#36317396)

The idea of "Cyber Weapons" is a deliberately wrong paradigm whose only purpose is to wring money out of national defense agencies. A cyber attack is nothing more than an idea. If you know something about computer security which the other guy doesn't, you can attack him with it. But as soon as he (or his operating system or antivirus vendor) knows it too, you've got nothing.

This is completely unlike a weapon. An AK-47 is still deadly even if your opponent knows what an assault rifle is, but an unpatched SQL injection vulnerability is useless the moment your opponent learns about it.

Re:Wrong paradigm (1)

bye (87770) | more than 3 years ago | (#36317754)

The idea of "Cyber Weapons" is a deliberately wrong paradigm whose only purpose is to wring money out of national defense agencies. A cyber attack is nothing more than an idea. If you know something about computer security which the other guy doesn't, you can attack him with it. But as soon as he (or his operating system or antivirus vendor) knows it too, you've got nothing.

This is completely unlike a weapon. An AK-47 is still deadly even if your opponent knows what an assault rifle is, but an unpatched SQL injection vulnerability is useless the moment your opponent learns about it.

While I agree with you that this (like any other public security scare) will be used to wring out monies (private and public monies alike), I do not think that the distinction you outline exists in such a clear way: a security vulnerability has weapon-alike properties too.

A security hole is like a landmine not discovered yet: destructive if you do not know about it and you walk straight over it, but pretty harmless if a red flag shows where it is.

Similarly, an AK-47 is pretty harmless to a tank crew that knows about its position, while absolutely deadly if unprepared.

Re:Wrong paradigm (1)

HungryHobo (1314109) | more than 3 years ago | (#36318060)

the whole internet has for decades been dealing with attacks on a scale which would make any one governments "cyberwarfare" division look like a pack of boyscouts throwing stones.

The internet is anything but a monoculture, there's thousands of different systems running different software all in their own little firewalled communities with the serious stuff behind DMZ's and multiple firewalls or on encrypted private networks.

Re:Wrong paradigm (1)

goodmanj (234846) | more than 3 years ago | (#36319644)

You're right that information is power even in conventional warfare, but I worry that calling them "cyber weapons" will totally mislead the people making policy decisions. If you're a government official funding conventional weapons, you fork over your $1 billion and you get a weapon system. 5 years later, when the shit hits the fan, you can pull it out of the arsenal and hurt people with it. Even 20 years later, it still does the job pretty well.

But if you buy $1 billion in "cyber weapons", five years later -- even six months later -- you've got absolutely nothing.

Re:Wrong paradigm (1)

bye (87770) | more than 3 years ago | (#36328644)

But if you buy $1 billion in "cyber weapons", five years later -- even six months later -- you've got absolutely nothing.

Depends on the quality of those 'cyber weapons'.

If they are of Stuxnet's quality then they can be very efficient and very deniable as well. Think of a weapon doing damage to Iran equivalent to the economic and military damage done by a dozen modern plutonium warheads and 2 years down the line they are still not able to pinpoint the attackers and prove that it was an act of war?

What kind of shelf time did Stuxnet have? Some of the zero-day Windows exploits it used were years old.

But yes, you are right that 'weapons of information' are much less physical than physical weapons and they are indeed often use-once weapons and if discovered/published lose their value very quickly. So it would be foolish to rely on them as the only weapon.

That does not mean that they can not be very effective weapons though and it does not mean we should not protect against them.

Re:Wrong paradigm (1)

biodata (1981610) | more than 3 years ago | (#36322668)

The landmine analogy is laughable. Hacks never did nor probably ever will blow anyones legs off.

Re:Wrong paradigm (1)

bye (87770) | more than 3 years ago | (#36328652)

There were several reports of injuries caused by damage to industrial equipment by Stuxnet.

Re:Wrong paradigm (1)

goodmanj (234846) | more than 3 years ago | (#36323718)

Oh, also, the "weapon" paradigm totally misrepresents the asymmetry of offense vs defense. In your tank vs ak-47 example, yes, if you know about an AK-47, you can defend against it. But to defend against it you need a tank -- to negate a thousand-dollar threat you need a million-dollar defense. Your land mine analogy works the same: it's far more expensive and hazardous to clear a minefield than it is to deploy it.

But for cyber weapons, an attack that cost millions to research can be negated for pennies by typing "mysql_real_escape_string()" in the right place.

Re:Wrong paradigm (1)

bye (87770) | more than 3 years ago | (#36328676)

Oh, also, the "weapon" paradigm totally misrepresents the asymmetry of offense vs defense. In your tank vs ak-47 example, yes, if you know about an AK-47, you can defend against it. But to defend against it you need a tank -- to negate a thousand-dollar threat you need a million-dollar defense. Your land mine analogy works the same: it's far more expensive and hazardous to clear a minefield than it is to deploy it.

But for cyber weapons, an attack that cost millions to research can be negated for pennies by typing "mysql_real_escape_string()" in the right place.

While the assymetry is there (did you really expect 'weapons of information' to be 100% equivalent to physical weapons?) you do not need a million dollar defense against a known $1000 AK47 position: you only need a $100 mortar, or a well placed $10 bullet or a $1 knife.

With the tank example I wanted to highlight how deadly damage the right kind of information can inflict, even against million dollar defenses. The tank gunner will still be dead after the incident even though we know it very well that had he known about that AK47 position he could easily have eliminated it, with the flick of a finger - with less effort than than 'typing "mysql_real_escape_string()" in the right place'.

Ban the Cyber Bomb! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36317424)

Ban it now before it is too late - join the CCD (Campaign for Cyber Disarmament)!

double edged (1)

kubitus (927806) | more than 3 years ago | (#36317434)

the services require that computers are accessible somehow.

-

so there are some backdoors, trojans etc in the OS

so there is the dominance of Closed Source Software to allow this

-

then it is too expensive to produce hard-to-access systems for the critical areas.

even if they would have such systems, then there are too many critical areas ro deploy them without being noticed

- I fear these cyber militant statements are preparing a decoy target of standard systems - inviting for an attack

which will be the reason for the next military action.

double edged (1)

kubitus (927806) | more than 3 years ago | (#36317498)

the services require that computers are accessible somehow.

-

so there are some backdoors, trojans etc in the OS

so there is the dominance of Closed Source Software to allow this

- then it is too expensive to produce hard-to-access systems for the critical areas.

even if they would have such systems, then there are too many critical areas ro deploy them without being noticed

- I fear these cyber militant statements are preparing a decoy target of standard systems - inviting for an attack

which will be the reason for the next military action.

I hear... (2)

Kamiza Ikioi (893310) | more than 3 years ago | (#36317652)

... they already have a surgical assassination team trained in both WoW and Farmville.

Re:I hear... (1)

Inda (580031) | more than 3 years ago | (#36319200)

I fear their teabagging skills and their use of the phrase "ur a fag".

"Cyber" (1)

Timmmm (636430) | more than 3 years ago | (#36317658)

Every time you use the word "cyber" your credibility drops by 20%.

Re:"Cyber" (1)

GameboyRMH (1153867) | more than 3 years ago | (#36322238)

Re:"Cyber" (1)

Timmmm (636430) | more than 3 years ago | (#36322328)

Woah...

Why are you on a public network? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36317742)

In the last 3 weeks we have had a number posts relating to different counties creating "Cyber teams", I bet that the USA has just started selling Cyber team training to the other governments of the world and now trying to get every country to sign up to their Cyber incentive, that way the USA would end up training all the Cyber teams of the world and in turn have a hand in all their systems.

Anyway my issue is WHY are Critical infrastructure systems even on a public network? and why are governments now thinking they own this virtual space? I guess it is just the role of a government to take land from the people regardless of where it is.

Yesterday it is stated that the US would now go to war over cyber attacks? and 'hacks'? I see this going really well, Anon decides one day to route an attack via russia, USA responds with Nukes, Russia gets reset lulz for everyone (minus russians who would hopefully see the funny side). You think the guys attacking Sony could not get in to critical infrastructure systems? these companies most likely have been out sourced to a company that does anything to keep profits up and most likely has a basic computer system. I bet they could there just has been no reason to mess with the system that much now. But now USA has threaten war maybe some group might decide that taking down all the critical systems start a war.

Side note this is mostly coming about because of Anon threatening massive economic internet companies like Sony and Amazon Cloud

Re:Why are you on a public network? (1)

AHuxley (892839) | more than 3 years ago | (#36317814)

The US can profit it from the 'networked' world in a few ways. Selling it, rolling it out, maintaining it, protecting it and the longterm backdoor.
Why and how the UK did not see this points to a political deal- you dont say no to the USA.

It won't work (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36317760)

Like every other government IT project, it'll be farmed out to the usual incompetent suspects, like EDF or Crapita. And it'll be delivered ten years late, while coming in an order of magnitude over budget. And it'll only deliver 20% of what was originally specified.

Happens every time

Obvious comment goes here (1)

TDyl (862130) | more than 3 years ago | (#36317788)

I suppose Steve Moffat will be employed to bring the cybermen to "life".

*Security* is the best form of defence (1)

petes_PoV (912422) | more than 3 years ago | (#36317918)

they are working on a range of offensive cyber weapons to increase the country's defensive capabilities

This kind of thinking shows the plan is doomed to failure before a single module of american software has been bought (at hyper-inflated prices) - which is the standard british technique for <strike> doing what the americans tell them to </strike> implementing a defence strategy.

While that might (although since it was impossible to test, we'll never really know) have been a successful strategy for nuclear war - when there were only 2 sides and therefore no uncertainty who the "enemy" was, it falls down in so many blindingly obvious ways when every man and his dog (bith within and without) is a potential threat.

What this attitude really tells us is that the plan is NOT one of defending a country against external attacks on it's computers, but to gain the ability to exert it's will against others by means of force.

if only (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36318066)

if only we had some sort of distributed network infrastructure that could mitigate any attacks on it and re-route around any damage, be a good idea

UK plans cyber-weapons programme (1)

David Gerard (12369) | more than 3 years ago | (#36318698)

HEY HEY 16K, R: Tape Loading Error, Thursday (NTK) — GCHQ has begun work on a range of uniquely British cyber-weapons [newstechnica.com] to add to Britain's defensive capability.

"Cyber-Space," said General Jonathan Shaw, pronouncing the hyphen between the words, "represents conflict without borders. But we can use the finest of British technical pluck to fight off Johnny Cyberforeigner!"

"We need a toolbox of capabilities," said armed forces minister Nick Harvey."For instance, we have a truckload of old Psion EPOCs, which are excellent for hand-to-hand combat. We can also demoralise the enemy with talk of what a fantastic OS it has and how their Nokia with Symbian just can't compare. Then, of course, we drive a truck over them."

Other research weapons include Sinclair ZX81 ninja stars, BBC Model B boat anchors and more ethically questionable devices such as Amstrad Emailer land mines.

Harvey did not specify where future threats might come from. "It would be foolish to assume the West can always dictate the pace and direction of this cyber-techno-electrickery-logy-stuff. Thing. I understand there are clever people in the world who don't even live in Britain. Imagine that!

The cyber-warfare initiative is anticipated to fully achieve its objectives over the next five years, those being a suitably fattened defence budget and continuing contract bungs to BAE Systems.

Newspeak (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36319174)

"offensive cyber weapons" aka "malware"

Put in wider historical perspective, probably first non-hunting weapons ever (such as e.g. swords) were also instruments of criminals before they achieved their glorified status.

The Geneva Convention (1)

biodata (1981610) | more than 3 years ago | (#36322740)

If there is such a thing as cyber weapons, and a cyber attack can be an act of war, does a government cyber attack on civilians constitute a war crime legally?

Other more likely paths to destruction . . . (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36332328)

We'll run out of food. The Chinese Stink Bug invasion has already started. These pests are not only obnoxious, but destroy fruit and vegetable crops. We'll have no healthy food of our own and will be forced to eat "high protein" Melanine laced products. Everyone will get sick and die. Now that's modern warfare borrowing from the time honored traditions of humanity.
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