Welcome to the Slashdot Beta site -- learn more here. Use the link in the footer or click here to return to the Classic version of Slashdot.

Thank you!

Before you choose to head back to the Classic look of the site, we'd appreciate it if you share your thoughts on the Beta; your feedback is what drives our ongoing development.

Beta is different and we value you taking the time to try it out. Please take a look at the changes we've made in Beta and  learn more about it. Thanks for reading, and for making the site better!

HERF Gun: Make it in your basement

Hemos posted more than 15 years ago | from the fun-with-pulses dept.

Technology 196

CuriousGeorge113 was the first one to write us about the homemade HERF gun an engineer unveiled at Infowarcon '99. All stuff that you can buy from a hardware store, and disable computers at varying range, depending on size. The current model does not do permanent damage, unlike EMP.

Sorry! There are no comments related to the filter you selected.

Mobile phone as a killer (2)

inburito (89603) | more than 15 years ago | (#1691639)

How about a mobile phone acting as a HERF gun? Sure it's not going to be as powerful as the one described in the article, but the basic effect is the same. New digital phones emit high frequency bursts which can affect your computer. Just put one next to your monitor while you're calling someone and watch the screen start to bounce up and down. I can sure understand the concern of people with pacemakers when they get near a mobile phone. Imagine what would happen when someone with a pacemaker got near the thing described in this article. It could kill the person.

A practical application (1)

ch-chuck (9622) | more than 15 years ago | (#1691640)

Your 'target' has an office. You are able to rent an office with a room adjoining their server room - you can make said device on the other side of the wall which probably is transparent to emf - suddenly their PC starts 'crashing' and nobody is able to fix it ("we swapped out the whole machine and it still freezes up on us!").


HERF gun and the not-so-happy wannabe hacker (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 15 years ago | (#1691641)

Wow, I hope Carolyn Mienel (sp?) dosent hear about this.... She is liable to call the law and have Schriner detained and questioned for a couple hours.... Oh, wait, nevermind that thing actually LOOKS like a HERF gun.... :P -An Anonymous johnny

FCC: last resort (2)

MostlyHarmless (75501) | more than 15 years ago | (#1691652)

The FCC may or may not be able to help with the problem. They are very busy and have plenty on their hands just trying to bust the intentional interference. The FCC should only be used as a last resort; your first try should be to ask the neighbor to help you locate the problem, as quonsar said. Your neighbor should be more than happy to help.

I think... (3)

Paul_Taylor (38370) | more than 15 years ago | (#1691653)

I think they forgot to mention that when the computers locked up, they were running windows. Having a HERF gun near it was entirely a coincidence.

Re:Who needs HERF when you have neighbors? (1)

Chuck Milam (1998) | more than 15 years ago | (#1691654)

Go talk to your ham radio neighbor. If he's a typical ham, he'll assist you in eliminating the interference.

Indeed, a true HAM radio operator would be eager to take steps to ensure he wasn't causing you any interference. On the other hand, if you're dealing with a CB'er running some ungodly amount of power through an illegal amplifier, you're more likely to be told to screw off...CB and HAM radio are completely different services, with completely different philosophies, kind of like the difference between Linux/BSD/Open Source Whatever OS and MS/Proprietary whatever OS...

Chuck Milam - KF9FR

I'm disappointed (1)

color of static (16129) | more than 15 years ago | (#1691655)

Reading the headline I thought it was going to include plans :-(. Actually these things are fairly easy to make if you have some experience in the frequencies used. Of course you'll probably have people descending on you fairly quickly due to all the RF services you knocked off of the air (half :-).

Light? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 15 years ago | (#1691656)


Re:Cancer? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 15 years ago | (#1691657)

Yes, I think that's (presumably) the reason for the parabolic reflectors, i.e to shield the user, and focus the emissions into the front of the device.

... technology dating back to Tesla ... (4)

Pegasus (13291) | more than 15 years ago | (#1691658)

Finnaly someone showed this to the public. It really is an old idea, but in the world we live now, it has some interesting effects.
I was tracing the development of such toys based on Nikola Tesla's ideas for a while now and found a lot of impresive stuff. Just do a quick search on "telsa weapon" and read some of the articles that pop up. One of the most scary is located at[2345].html (yeah thats five parts of it). Hints about causing earthquakes with similiar technology as described in the story above. Other interesting sites are Gravity gate (, Kelly BBS (, Tesla web ring and similiar. If you like to search a lot, you may even find hints about top secret super high tech weapons developed in Russia for knocking out satelites, which are also based on one of the Tesla's ideas and are powered by also originaly Tesla's work, improved by dr. H. Moray, the so called Moray generator. Basicaly you just set up an antenna and some electronic wizardry and you have electricity. Sounds too good to be true, but there's a story on the kellynet about how Tesla made an electric car powered by such a device.
Back to the EMP stuff...does anyone have some nice information about project HAARP and similiar "experiments" all around the world? I heard somewhere that US military already developed their small EMP "bomb" for knocking out "e-criminals". I would like to take a look at one of those toys :) And the next thing would be to cover my house entirely in somekind of conductive mesh, to make more or less effective faradey cage. I feel like protecting computers and other electronic equipment will be big bussiness in the next decades.

HERF Grenade (1)

Tekmage (17375) | more than 15 years ago | (#1691659)

Kind of like setting a Star Trek phaser on overload.

Set it beside the target device, key in the burst sequence, and walk away.

Re:cryptonomicon (1)

Cironian (9526) | more than 15 years ago | (#1691660)

The one in the book is real EMP, capable of causing permanent damage to electronics, not HERF. (But, yes both exist; although EMP devices are more expensive to build, at least I havent read about "simple" ones yet)

Buy it here - Re:Mobile Phone Killer (3)

Markee (72201) | more than 15 years ago | (#1691661)

There already is a mobile phone killer. It's about the size of a cell phone, although wall mounted. The company that makes them didn't plan on making them portable in 1998. What a shame! I'd love to carry one of those around and enjoy the silly faces of all the yuppies who annoy anyone in the vicinity by shouting into their phones all the time.

You could even make the device look like a cell phone itself, so that everybody around you (on the train, for example) will think their cell phone is broken, while you, for a change, bore them out of their skulls talking into your little gadget.

Here's the story on Electronic Telegraph: Immobilising the mobiles []

cryptonomicon (0)

sevenseven (75320) | more than 15 years ago | (#1691664)

so that thing mentioned in cryptonomicon actually exists?


Hmm. (2)

gabrielh (89851) | more than 15 years ago | (#1691666)

HERF bears a frightening resemblence to NERF. Conspiracy by the toy companies, conspiracy by the toy companies. See if my niece sneaks up behind me with one of THOSE again...

Superb... (2)

zebidee (40430) | more than 15 years ago | (#1691669)

Aren't mobile phones meant to be capable of doing similar damage to the insides of electronics? I suppose that's only when the shielding is off.

The nuke described sounds just like the "Coldbringer" described in the Dark Knight Returns 10 years ago though.

Now that P600 chips are out we're nearly into the microwave region of light - the shielding will get greater so surely this will have less of an effect?

Ok, a URL to the plans. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 15 years ago | (#1691671)

Does anyone have a URL for the plans?

Concealed weapon ? (1)

Case Sensitive (88506) | more than 15 years ago | (#1691673)

Is that a HERF gun in your pocket or ....

Surely nothing you run around with under the jacket.

ummm... (1)

neoscsi (29061) | more than 15 years ago | (#1691675)

and WHERE do i get the plans for one of these..? :)

More info? (1)

QuMa (19440) | more than 15 years ago | (#1691677)

Anybody got anymore info on this? Specificly: What frequency does it emmit? Or does it really just emit one pulse?

This is scary (2)

Anonymous Coward | more than 15 years ago | (#1691678)

Imagine someone playing with this on new years or it is the ultimate war machine....... Think about it. We live in a information age, and if the information is disabled?

Re:Concealed weapon ? (1)

Cironian (9526) | more than 15 years ago | (#1691680)

With enough work (and equipment), you could actually make the antenna part quite small and still keep it powerful. Your only problem will be the power supply. Flashlight batteries just dont really cut it here. :)

(Although you could carry around the car battery in a backpack)

Don't planes use computers? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 15 years ago | (#1691681)

I'm not so sure this is so nice.. 100 feet is a long way to fall.

Re:Security/Activism device. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 15 years ago | (#1691682)

Yeah, a bunch of tinkerers that never got their HAM licenses are going to be running around blind from RF burn...

There has to be a more elegant antenna design... anyone want to comment about this? (I dont know much about wave propagation) Also, I remember seeing some kind of RF conduit/lens information somewhere... if I find it I will post the url..

Now.... all we have to do is get that high energy Neutron beam compleated. We can hold the world hostage for....
ONE MILLION DOLLARS (pinky to lip)
-A different anonymous johnny

Re:And in other news... (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 15 years ago | (#1691683)

...and in Redmond, a Micro$oft spokesman attributed the latest delays in W2K to terrorists firing HERF guns. 'Well we were just about ready to burn the master CD when one of these babies went off and we lost 3 months worth of work. It was all working fine till then, honest.'

Amateurs (2)

EXpunk (66988) | more than 15 years ago | (#1691684)

Now, the toys THIS [] cat creates is insane. I think his microwave gun is not shown right now, but this dude is mighty.

Re:Mobile Phone Killer (2)

Max von H. (19283) | more than 15 years ago | (#1691685)

I've noticed my computer would crash everytime my mobile rings, if the computer has it's box open. Talking about European GSM digital mobiles, they're 2W.

Re:Faraday cage? (2)

Svartalf (2997) | more than 15 years ago | (#1691686)

A proper Faraday Cage will BLOCK the signal totally unless the HERF is exactly on of the outside of the cage. A fix for this maneuver is to have two cages nested like nesting dolls with a small distance apart. I would think that something suitably Tempest "hardened" would be immune to a HERF attack.

hmm (3)

Anonymous Coward | more than 15 years ago | (#1691687)

Alright, a few points to clear some things up. Most of you won't realize this from the article, but these HERF guns are very low range. The gun has to be within a very minimal amount of feet to accomplish anything. Another thing, the gun is huge. If you were to make a high powered gun, it'd be even bigger. So your thinkin', "Well, I'll just lug it around in my car." Wrong, if you do, expect nothing on your car to work when you get done firing the thing at a couple of computers. It'll fry the computer in your car as well as the "enemies" computers. If you happen to get a car thats old enough not to have a computer in it, a high powered HERF gun will even fry the actual wiring. These HERF guns are very neat, but not practical yet. I hope someday we can actually build something that has some practicallity, and do the same as this lovely tool.

Re:Faraday cage? (1)

t-money (32075) | more than 15 years ago | (#1691688)

You can perfectly shield out RF if you have an unbroken perfect conductor surrounding your device. In practice, the conductor isn't perfect, so some of the RF penetrates, but the bigger problem is breaks in the faraday cage (for cabling into the device, cracks around doors, etc) -- RF can squirt through these. I think that shielding can get much better. It wouldn't be too expensive a proposition to shield computers from such an attack, I think...

Re:Superb... (2)

CrusadeR (555) | more than 15 years ago | (#1691689)

FOBS, an orbiting satellite-deployed nuclear weapon that would be utilized primarily for EMP-attack against the Soviet Union or continental US, was conceived of after a nuke test in the Pacific knocked out power in Hawaii. EMP as a nuclear detonation side effect wasn't even anticipated, but rapidly became a big design consideration for defense contractors constructing electronic warfare systems for the US... I doubt commercial vendors like Intel really take the possibility of nuclear attack under consideration when designing CPU's though, heh

Re:Faraday cage? (1)

sporty (27564) | more than 15 years ago | (#1691698)

I have a feeling that we might as well just use pens and pencils. Let them HERF that advanced technology.

Re:A wake up call ... to who? (2)

challen (89545) | more than 15 years ago | (#1691699)

It's supposed to be a wake up call for better shielding. Of course in the PC market that wouldn't happen unless the government forced the issue, simply because nobody would pay the extra money for such equipment without a demonstrable threat. I know I don't want to plop down an extra $200 when I buy a PC. In the Air Force we have a certification program called TEMPEST. The computers are all shielded in solid steel cases, and that's just to reduce electronic noise to prevent eavesdropping. The shielding required for that is expensive (and heavy!) I don't want to guess how much shielding would be required to protect computers from something like a powerful HERF gun.

I did this on a small scale years ago (1)

Jimhotep (29230) | more than 15 years ago | (#1691700)

It was about 1985 or so. A woman at work had
a lighter that generated a spark to light the gas.
She gave it to me and I promptly took it apart.

One day I was sitting close to my Osborne and
playing with it, the old Os reset itself.

I thought to myself, damn!

Re:Mobile Phone Killer (2)

alumshubby (5517) | more than 15 years ago | (#1691701)

I've adopted a somewhat more low-tech approach to the driving-while-phoning problem. I put a sign in my windshield that says, in reversed print, HANG UP AND DRIVE THE CAR.

Re:This is scary (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 15 years ago | (#1691702)

... than we'd have to start to think ourself again. No, really; information is not the problem and I'd expect critical hardware to be shielded. Be Faraday with you.

Several options... (3)

Anonymous Coward | more than 15 years ago | (#1691703)

What you'll need is a makeshift parabolic reflector dish and something that works as a feed horn to source the signal. Something a little safer than this rube goldberg shown in the article (which, by the way, looks damned unsafe- gaps in the horns, etc... Easy way to get cateracts, leukemia, etc.) would be a coffee can and metal saucer sled combo for the antenna. The can makes for a sorry (and sloppy) feed horn, but it works and if you get the distance from the sled right, it works as expected and creates a decent columnated beam. Sloppy work, but it will point this mess more away from you than the other would.

Seen it before (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 15 years ago | (#1691704)

Oh, come on. The Doctor was using homemade electronics-disabling devices on Daleks back in 1963. A battery and some bits of an old electric heater - all you need to see off an alien invasion.

Re:Oooh. This is great! (1)

alumshubby (5517) | more than 15 years ago | (#1691705)

My pet fantasy du jour: Britney Spears with laryngitis.

Re:Mobile Phone Killer (1)

svallarian (43156) | more than 15 years ago | (#1691706)

yeah, but you'd probably also shut off their car's electrical system too...

The world is coming to an end...... Save yourself (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 15 years ago | (#1691707)

This is this further proof that the technology we have created will become the downfall of mankind. Do not be afraid to jump into your personal space machine and set a course to Melztar....... You will not be alone.

Its a tesla coil with a director/reflector antenna (5)

anticypher (48312) | more than 15 years ago | (#1691718)

All this guy has done is built a simple pulsed DC Tesla coil using some sort of vibrator and a huge step-up transformer. Lots of people have done that, its nothing new.

He'd have to have at least three stages of RLC circuits to get an efficient power coupling into the antenna and then radiated off into the ether (maybe he has, it doesn't show in the photo). Yes, it can be done by winding your own coils, and buying an old 20kV capacitor from an electric company auction or scrap dealer. Then you would have a very effective disruptor of unprotected electronics (but not likely to cause permanent damage except with a proximity of a few inches). Making it highly directional is left as an exercise for the student ;-)

Years ago I helped tune a HUGE multi-stage step up system to duplicate the experiments of Nikola Tesla (sending spark gap morse code). This guy had built it into his garage, and had collected huge old power supplies from an old AM radio station to power it. We tested it briefly for a few seconds each evening. Whenever we worked on it, one of his cooler neighbors came over to play with it as well. Seems that every time it was switched on, all radio and cable TV reception in the area was overpowered. Fluorescent lights glowed up to 30 feet away, and nearby computers would crash.

For a few months there were cable TV trucks patrolling his neighborhood with all kinds of detecting/directional antennas looking for the source of the HERF (he kept it off most of the time), eventually they posted reward notices on phone poles in the area. He dismantled his whole setup and moved it that day (his house has never been cleaner :-). Cops came around the next day with a search warrant, didn't find anything and left. Now he only does his experiments in an old barn in the middle of nowhere, with no electical lines nearby. Any cars driving near the place stall and the CD player will skip, and he advises leaving all credit cards and watches somewhere else when visiting. I think some day he will actually discover zero-point energy or tap into the earth's natural resonance of 12Hz.

I cringe when I think of how this idea will be mutilated by the movie industry. A HERF gun that looks like an M16 or a .45 caliber pistol and shoots star-wars-like bolts of light, or the death ray in "Revenge of the Pink Panther", or the size of a packet of cigarets with some big LED numbers counting down with an audible click.

the AC

Re:... technology dating back to Tesla ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 15 years ago | (#1691719)

Um, that's Keely, not Kelly... :->

Try [] instead...

Re:Hmm. (1)

Ed Avis (5917) | more than 15 years ago | (#1691720)

I thought it was HREF at first. I imagined the HREF gun was a kind of light-gun that you point at links on Web pages.

Re:Faraday cage? (1)

angelo (21182) | more than 15 years ago | (#1691721)

At the buhl science center (which was in the northside of pittsburgh, a residential area) they had a rather large (15', can't remember the wrap numbers offhand) tesla coil. When they used to fire it in the 60s they would blank out tvs for about 5-10 blocks. They retired it until they got a faraday cage. The cage is NOT a perfect conductor. It is essentially heavy chicken wire. The thing is, no radiation escapes it because it's cylindrical in shape with copper floor. What this means is the potential of an arc hitting a specific location is greatly reduced by the even surface. They have no problems with firing it anymore, even though there is a computer lab one floor down.

Re:Who needs HERF when you have neighbors? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 15 years ago | (#1691722)

Home electronic equipment must accept any interference that it receives. While your neighbor might be able to help you, it is really the company that produced the products fault. If you don't know your neighbor and he is a Ham then look him up at [] . If you don't find him then he is probably a CB'er and you can complain to the FCC.

Re:Oooh. This is great! (0)

mcolin (14379) | more than 15 years ago | (#1691723)

And the difference to her voice right now would be?

Re:Uses (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 15 years ago | (#1691724)

Yeah, I always did want one of those along with a laser TV remote control if you live where the houses aren't as close to each other as they were in Poltergeist.

Re:Possible use of this device (1)

Bad Mojo (12210) | more than 15 years ago | (#1691725)

Think more complex. Let's not limit this to `terrorists'. Small countries with gorilla(sp) militaries could use this in conjuction with conventional military strikes to maximize their effectiveness. You could knock out security systems or create havoc before entering a site you want to caputure or destroy. As people start to use computer based tools defensivly, their will be more and more offensive tools designed to overcome them.

Bad Mojo

Re:Amateurs (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 15 years ago | (#1691726)

Yeah, that those toys are- I've got a few of his plans; scary things that DO work. He's pulled the stuff off line that he had up (I don't know whether to be relieved or disappointed- the stuff he had was unbelievable but so damned dangerous...) but the site claims to be having the fun toys back soon...

Woks have odd problems... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 15 years ago | (#1691727)

Good ones ARE parabaloid- but they're kinda smallish for this sort of thing and you can't use feed horns with that sort of thing, etc.

However, I'm with you on the, "I don't want to be anywhere NEAR the damned thing when I fire it!" sentiments. Playing with microwaves is not good- all kinds of things happen to people that play with higher power microwaves that don't take proper precautions...

Re:This is all St. Andrea's fault. (1)

AtariDatacenter (31657) | more than 15 years ago | (#1691728)

Reading the "bskies1" story here, if something like that actually exists, it'd be my terro-weapon of choice. Get a few of these 2-3 richter babies, shoot them all along the St. Andrea's fault, and watch California go into the ocean. :)

I don't think it would be TOO bad really. I mean, it can only increase my marketability if the state of California disappears. And realators would love access to the fresh new coastline! :P

Planes do not use computers (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 15 years ago | (#1691729)

because of redmond, computers are considered unstable threats to the trade. The closest thing to a computer that you wil find on a plane is the you legacy Apple Lisa that has long since been converted to the planes toliet (that is why they are so small)!

Re:... technology dating back to Tesla ... (1)

svallarian (43156) | more than 15 years ago | (#1691730)

I believe the US tested out their newest EMP weapon in the recent bombing campaign in Serbia. Seems like it was a small device attached to a stealth plane...

Security anyone? (0)

L0rdV4der (85923) | more than 15 years ago | (#1691748)

Anyone thought of the real terrorist (bombs, etc) uses of this?

1. Terrorist drives up to building in van (non-electronic van).

2. Terrorist turns on HERF

3. Security system? Somehow, it doesn't seem to be working right now...maybe it was running Windoze.

Other fun uses:

1. Electronic spy cameras (the ones you can hide in smoke detectors)? Zap...not anymore. (whoops, my finger slipped)

2. Bad ISP getting on your nerves? Zap. Problem solved.

3. Found out where a spammer lives? Zap. No more spam.

4. How about those noisy neighbors above you, who don't understand the word "courtesy". You hear their subwoofer booming on your ceiling (and breaking things) Zap. Hmm....the party upstairs seems to have died.

Nobody messes with Me. I am Me.
Visit my web site for fun and excitement!
SEE! The amazing pictures on the projects page!
SEE! The cool animation at the bottom of the projects page (sorry that it's 10 megs)
SEE! Me..... in..... space......
(insert Mel Brooks' tune here)

Everything exists or does not (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 15 years ago | (#1691749)

are you stupid or something, it is a simple question. I know that I am going to go home get the plans and mess with the age old question of cramming more gram into the thing.

Re:... technology dating back to Tesla ... (1)

Lovepump (58591) | more than 15 years ago | (#1691750)

Back to the EMP stuff...does anyone have some nice information about project HAARP and similiar "experiments" all around the world? I heard somewhere that US military already developed their small EMP "bomb" for knocking out "e-criminals".

Yes I do, but not with me at the moment - I've been readig a book called Major Impact (or something similar) all about asteroid impacts and PHA's (Potentially Hazardous Asteroids). Project HAARP gets several pages devoted to it. I'll see if I can dig the info out from home and follow-up in here....

Not new news (3)

joq (63625) | more than 15 years ago | (#1691751)

Now Microwave mind control would've been a bomb ass topic

For hundreds of years, sci-fi writers have imagined weapons that
might use energy waves or pulses to knock out, knock down, or
otherwise disable enemies--without necessarily killing them. And
for a good 40 years the U.S. military has quietly been pursuing
weapons of this sort. Much of this work is still secret, and it
has yet to produce a usable "nonlethal" weapon. But now that the
cold war has ended and the United States is engaged in more
humanitarian and peacekeeping missions, the search for weapons
that could incapacitate people without inflicting lethal injuries
has intensified. Police, too, are keenly interested. Scores of
new contracts have been let, and scientists, aided by government
research on the "bioeffects" of beamed energy, are searching the
electromagnetic and sonic spectrums for wavelengths that can
affect human behavior. Recent advancements in miniaturized
electronics, power generation, and beam aiming may finally have
put such pulse and beam weapons on the cusp of practicality, some
experts say.

Weapons already exist that use lasers, which can temporarily or
permanently blind enemy soldiers. So-called acoustic or sonic
weapons, like the ones in the aforementioned lab, can vibrate the
insides of humans to stun them, nauseate them, or even "liquefy
their bowels and reduce them to quivering diarrheic messes,"
according to a Pentagon briefing. Prototypes of such weapons were
recently considered for tryout when U.S. troops intervened in
Somalia. Other, stranger effects also have been explored, such as
using electromagnetic waves to put human targets to sleep or to
heat them up, on the microwave-oven principle. Scientists are
also trying to make a sonic cannon that throws a shock wave with
enough force to knock down a man.

While this and similar weapons may seem far-fetched, scientists
say they are natural successors to projects already
underway--beams that disable the electronic systems of aircraft,
computers, or missiles, for instance. "Once you are into these
antimateriel weapons, it is a short jump to antipersonnel
weapons," says Louis Slesin, editor of the trade journal
Microwave News. That's because the human body is essentially an
electrochemical system, and devices that disrupt the electrical
impulses of the nervous system can affect behavior and body
functions. But these programs--particularly those involving
antipersonnel research--are so well guarded that details are
scarce. "People [in the military] go silent on this issue," says
Slesin, "more than any other issue. People just do not want to
talk about this."

Projects underway. To learn what the Pentagon has been doing,
U.S. News talked to more than 70 experts and scoured biomedical
and engineering journals, contracts, budgets, and research
proposals. The effort to develop exotic weapons is surprising in
its range. Scores of projects are underway, most with funding of
several hundred thousand dollars each. One Air Force lab plans to
spend more than $100 million by 2003 to research the "bioeffects"
of such weaponry.

The benefits of bloodless battles for soldiers and law
enforcement are obvious. But the search for new weapons--cloaked
as they are in secrecy--faces hurdles. One is the acute
skepticism of many conventional-weapons experts. "It is
interesting technology but it won't end bloodshed and wars," says
Harvey Sapolsky, director of the Security Studies Program at MIT.
Says Charles Bernard, a former Navy weapons-research director: "I
have yet to see one of these ray gun things that actually works."
And if they do work, other problems arise: Some so-called
nonlethal weapons could end up killing rather than just disabling
victims if used at the wrong range. Others may easily be thwarted
by shielding.

Sterner warnings come from ethicists. Years ago the world drafted
conventions and treaties to attempt to set rules for the use of
bullets and bombs in war. But no treaties govern the use of
unconventional weapons. And no one knows what will happen to
people exposed to them over the long term.

Moreover, medical researchers worry that their work on such
things as the use of electromagnetic waves to stimulate hearing
in the deaf or to halt seizures in epileptics might be used to
develop weaponry. In fact, the military routinely has approached
the National Institutes of Health for research information.
"DARPA [Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency] has come to us
every few years to see if there are ways to incapacitate the
central nervous system remotely," Dr. F. Terry Hambrecht, head of
the Neural Prosthesis Program at NIH, told U.S. News. "But
nothing has ever come of it," he said. "That is too science
fiction and far-fetched." Still, the Pentagon plans to conduct
human testing with lasers and acoustics in the future, says
Charles Swett, an assistant for Special Operations and
Low-Intensity Conflict. Swett insists that the testing will be
constrained and highly ethical. It may not be far off. The U.S.
Air Force expects to have microwave weapons by the year 2015 and
other nonlethal weaponry sooner. "When that does happen," warns
Steven Metz, professor of national security affairs at the U.S.
Army War College, "I think there will be a public uproar. We need
an open debate on them now."

Laser ethics

What happened with U.S. forces in Somalia foreshadows the
impending ethical dilemmas. In early 1995, some U.S. marines were
supplied with so-called dazzling lasers. The idea was to inflict
as little harm as possible if Somalis turned hostile. But the
marines' commander then decided that the lasers should be
"de-tuned" to prevent the chance of their blinding citizens. With
their intensity thus diminished, they could be used only for
designating or illuminating targets.

On March 1, 1995, commandos of U.S. Navy SEAL Team 5 were
positioned at the south end of Mogadishu airport. At 7 a.m., a
technician from the Air Force's Phillips Laboratory, developer of
the lasers, used one to illuminate a Somali man armed with a
rocket-propelled grenade. A SEAL sniper shot and killed the
Somali. There was no question the Somali was aiming at the SEALs.
But the decision not to use the laser to dazzle or temporarily
blind the man irks some of the nonlethal-team members. "We were
not allowed to disable these guys because that was considered
inhumane," said one. "Putting a bullet in their head is somehow
more humane?"

Despite such arguments, the International Red Cross and Human
Rights Watch have since led a fight against antipersonnel lasers.
In the fall of 1995, the United States signed a treaty that
prohibits the development of lasers designed "to cause permanent
blindness." Still, laser weapons are known to have been developed
by the Russians, and proliferation is a big concern. Also, the
treaty does not forbid dazzling or "glare" lasers, whose effects
are temporary. U.S. military labs are continuing work in this
area, and commercial contractors are marketing such lasers to

Acoustic pain

The next debate may well focus on acoustic or sonic weapons.
Benign sonic effects are certainly familiar, ranging from the
sonic boom from an airplane to the ultrasound instrument that
"sees" a baby in the uterus. The military is looking for
something less benign--an acoustic weapon with frequencies
tunable all the way up to lethal. Indeed, Huntington Beach-based
Scientific Applications & Research Associates Inc. (SARA) has
built a device that will make internal organs resonate: The
effects can run from discomfort to damage or death. If used to
protect an area, its beams would make intruders increasingly
uncomfortable the closer they get. "We have built several
prototypes," says Parviz Parhami, SARA's CEO. Such acoustic
fences, he says, could be deployed today. He estimates that five
to 10 years will be needed to develop acoustic rifles and other
more exotic weapons, but adds, "I have heard people as optimistic
as one to two years." The military also envisions acoustic fields
being used to control riots or to clear paths for convoys.

SARA's acoustic devices have already been tested at the Camp
Pendleton Marine Corps Base, near the company's Huntington Beach
office. And they were considered for Somalia. "We asked for
acoustics," says one nonlethal weapons expert who was there. But
the Department of Defense said, "No," since they were still
untested. The Pentagon feared they could have caused permanent
injury to pregnant women, the old, or the sick. Parhami sees
acoustics "as just one more tool" for the military and law
enforcement. "Like any tool, I suppose this can be abused," he
says. "But like any tool, it can be used in a humane and ethical

Toward the end of World War II, the Germans were reported to have
made a different type of acoustic device. It looked like a large
cannon and sent out a sonic boomlike shock wave that in theory
could have felled a B-17 bomber. In the mid-1940s, the U.S. Navy
created a program called Project Squid to study the German vortex
technology. The results are unknown. But Guy Obolensky, an
American inventor, says he replicated the Nazi device in his
laboratory in 1949. Against hard objects the effect was
astounding, he says: It could snap a board like a twig. Against
soft targets like people, it had a different effect. "I felt like
I had been hit by a thick rubber blanket," says Obolensky, who
once stood in its path. The idea seemed to founder for years
until recently, when the military was intrigued by its nonlethal
possibilities. The Army and Navy now have vortex projects
underway. The SARA lab has tested its prototype device at Camp
Pendleton, one source says.

Electromagnetic heat

The Soviets were known to have potent blinding lasers. They were
also feared to have developed acoustic and radio-wave weapons.
The 1987 issue of Soviet Military Power, a cold war Pentagon
publication, warned that the Soviets might be close to "a
prototype short-range tactical RF [radio frequency] weapon." The
Washington Post reported that year that the Soviets had used such
weapons to kill goats at 1 kilometer's range. The Pentagon, it
turns out, has been pursuing similar devices since the 1960s.

Typical of some of the more exotic proposals are those from Clay
Easterly. Last December, Easterly--who works at the Health
Sciences Research Division of Oak Ridge National
Laboratory--briefed the Marine Corps on work he had conducted for
the National Institute of Justice, which does research on crime
control. One of the projects he suggested was an electromagnetic
gun that would "induce epilepticlike seizures." Another was a
"thermal gun [that] would have the operational effect of heating
the body to 105 to 107" degrees Fahrenheit. Such effects would
bring on discomfort, fevers, or even death.

But, unlike the work on blinding lasers and acoustic weapons,
progress here has been slow. The biggest problem is power.
High-powered microwaves intended to heat someone standing 200
yards away to 105 degrees Fahrenheit may kill someone standing 10
yards away. On the other hand, electromagnetic fields weaken
quickly with distance from the source. And beams of such energy
are difficult to direct to their target. Mission Research Corp.
of Albuquerque, N.M., has used a computer model to study the
ability of microwaves to stimulate the body's peripheral nervous
system. "If sufficient peripheral nerves fire, then the body
shuts down to further stimulus, producing the so-called stun
effect," an abstract states. But, it concludes, "the ranges at
which this can be done are only a few meters."

Nonetheless, government laboratories and private contractors are
pursuing numerous similar programs. A 1996 Air Force Scientific
Advisory Board report on future weapons, for instance, includes a
classified section on a radio frequency or "RF Gunship." Other
military documents confirm that radio-frequency antipersonnel
weapons programs are underway. And the Air Force's Armstrong
Laboratory at Brooks Air Force Base in Texas is heavily engaged
in such research. According to budget documents, the lab intends
to spend more than $110 million over the next six years "to
exploit less-than-lethal biological effects of electromagnetic
radiation for Air Force security, peacekeeping, and war-fighting

Low-frequency sleep

From 1980 to 1983, a man named Eldon Byrd ran the Marine Corps
Nonlethal Electromagnetic Weapons project. He conducted most of
his research at the Armed Forces Radiobiology Research Institute
in Bethesda, Md. "We were looking at electrical activity in the
brain and how to influence it," he says. Byrd, a specialist in
medical engineering and bioeffects, funded small research
projects, including a paper on vortex weapons by Obolensky. He
conducted experiments on animals--and even on himself--to see if
brain waves would move into sync with waves impinging on them
from the outside. (He found that they would, but the effect was
short lived.)

By using very low frequency electromagnetic radiation--the waves
way below radio frequencies on the electromagnetic spectrum--he
found he could induce the brain to release behavior-regulating
chemicals. "We could put animals into a stupor," he says, by
hitting them with these frequencies. "We got chick brains--in
vitro--to dump 80 percent of the natural opioids in their
brains," Byrd says. He even ran a small project that used
magnetic fields to cause certain brain cells in rats to release
histamine. In humans, this would cause instant flulike symptoms
and produce nausea. "These fields were extremely weak. They were
undetectable," says Byrd. "The effects were nonlethal and
reversible. You could disable a person temporarily," Byrd
hypothesizes. "It [would have been] like a stun gun."

Byrd never tested any of his hardware in the field, and his
program, scheduled for four years, apparently was closed down
after two, he says. "The work was really outstanding," he
grumbles. "We would have had a weapon in one year." Byrd says he
was told his work would be unclassified, "unless it works."
Because it worked, he suspects that the program "went black."
Other scientists tell similar tales of research on
electromagnetic radiation turning top secret once successful
results were achieved. There are clues that such work is
continuing. In 1995, the annual meeting of four-star U.S. Air
Force generals--called CORONA--reviewed more than 1,000 potential
projects. One was called "Put the Enemy to Sleep/Keep the Enemy
From Sleeping." It called for exploring "acoustics,"
"microwaves," and "brain-wave manipulation" to alter sleep
patterns. It was one of only three projects approved for initial

Direct contact

As the military continues its search for nonlethal weapons, one
device that works on contact has already hit the streets. It is
called the "Pulse Wave Myotron." A sales video shows it in
action. A big, thuggish-looking "criminal" approaches a
well-dressed woman. As he tries to choke her, she touches him
with a white device about the size of a pack of cigarettes. He
falls to the floor in a fetal position, seemingly paralyzed but
with eyes open, and he does not recover for minutes.

"Contact with the Myotron," says the narrator, "feels like
millions of tiny needles are sent racing through the body. This
is a result of scrambling the signals from the motor cortex
region of the brain," he says. "It is horrible," says William
Gunby, CEO of the company that developed the Myotron. "It is no
toy." The Myotron overrides voluntary--but not
involuntary--muscle movements, so the victim's vital functions
are maintained. Sales are targeted at women, but law enforcement
officers and agencies--including the Arizona state police and
bailiffs with the New York Supreme Court--have purchased the
device, Gunby says. A special model built for law enforcement,
called the Black Widow, is being tested by the FBI, he says. "I
hope they don't order a lot soon," he adds. "The Russian
government just ordered 100,000 of them, and I need to replenish
my stock."

The U.S. military also has shown interest in the Myotron. "About
the time of the gulf war, I got calls from people in the
military," recalls Gunby. "They asked me about bonding the
Myotron's pulse wave to a laser beam so that everyone in the path
of the laser would collapse." While it could not be done, Gunby
says, he nonetheless was warned to keep quiet. "I was told that
these calls were totally confidential," he says, "and that they
would completely deny it if I ever mentioned it."

Some say such secrecy is necessary in new-weapons development.
But others think it is a mistake. "Because the programs are
secret, the sponsorship is low level, and the technology is
unconventional," says William Arkin of Human Rights Watch Arms
Project, "the military has not done any of the things to
determine if the money is being well spent or the programs are a
good idea." It should not be long before the evidence is in.

Original article written by: By Douglas Pasternak

related topics []

Re:Security anyone? (0)

Jimhotep (29230) | more than 15 years ago | (#1691752)

you sound like a "cool dude"

my karma is showing

Don't you mean iMac? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 15 years ago | (#1691753)

here []

Eliminating Competition (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 15 years ago | (#1691755)

I've always thought that one of these would be a nice way of getting ahead in business. What, you say our competitor will get his release out a few weeks before ours? No problem.

The international terrorism aspects have struck me as being overblown. I'd guess the first incident could be something like a domestic group detonating an EMP device on the campus of a high profile high technology company somewhere in the Northwest. Such an incident could dramatically change corporate IT strategies. Hardened machines may will be purchased, but the majority of the money will be spent on centralized hardened data warehouses.

who are you we to judge the doomsday machine? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 15 years ago | (#1691757)

This thing should only be known to nice little dictators and third world countries with grudges against the US.

Re:A wake up call ... to who? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 15 years ago | (#1691758)

Basically the same shielding that Tempest hardening provides should be sufficient to shield most equipment from a HERF gun. Tempest hardening is basically building a faraday cage around the device so it won't emit RF itself. If it's already in a Faraday cage, it's shielded against HERF.

Re:Not new news (0)

Jimhotep (29230) | more than 15 years ago | (#1691761)

thou shalt not kill

but you can mame all you want to!

my karma is showing

Mobile Phone Killer (2)

akey (29718) | more than 15 years ago | (#1691768)

Hmmm... every time I see someone driving along with a mobile phone pressed to their ear, I can't help but wonder if a device like this could find some use. If the pulse is directable, and has a limited range, it could just work.

Nothing new (2)

rde (17364) | more than 15 years ago | (#1691769)

BFD. The technology to bring computers to a grinding halt has been around since 1996 (it slipped back from its original release date).

A wake up call ... to who? (2)

TetsuoShima (34625) | more than 15 years ago | (#1691770)

But Schriner, who has devoted his research to small-scale electronic warfare, said the demonstration was intended as a "wake up call" to show that even low-budget saboteurs can create viable electronic weapons

I just don't understand that sentence from the article.

A wake up call ... to the government? I don't think that the US could stop that if it tried, without reverting to a national police state.

I made something similar (2)

Yarn (75) | more than 15 years ago | (#1691772)

But it was considerably less powerful. It was an old car battery and the coils from an large, old TV.

It wasnt directional, and you needed it fairly close to the device you were disrupting. I made it after a discussion about the music on the radio on out school bus. We didnt like it and the driver wouldnt turn it off, so I said to my friends 'I bet I could make something that'd stop those speakers remotely' and they didnt believe me so I made it.

Never did try it out on the bus tho.

I'd be interested as to the thickness of metal that this device works thru, as most equipement is shielded, and medical equipment more so. And given all this worry about cellphones causing cancer I'd be interested as to any lasting effects on anyone in the way. The operators of MRI Scanners are exposed to both strong magnetic fields and high frequency RF, and direction sense and memory are rumoured to be affected (Known as 'Mag Lag'). AFAIK theres no proven data on this.

Oooh. This is great! (4)

mcolin (14379) | more than 15 years ago | (#1691774)

Now I can finally shut down those Britney Spears sounds my neighbor is bombarding our street with. Aaaah, blissful silence!

Who needs HERF when you have neighbors? (1)

MrP- (45616) | more than 15 years ago | (#1691776)

This HERF thing sounds week compared to my neighbors ham radio, when the guy uses it, every speaker in my house blasts his talk, tvs go crazy, and lots of electronic stuff I have just shuts off. grr damn neighbors!

$mrp=~s/mrp/elite god/g;

Faraday cage? (2)

fReNeTiK (31070) | more than 15 years ago | (#1691778)

I never paid attention in physics, so sorry if this is dead wrong:

Wouldn't a Faraday cage around the targeted device protect it from the beam? It's supposed to block electromagentic interference, after all.

Brady Bill: HERF guns (1)

dbzero (64544) | more than 15 years ago | (#1691780)

: They asked if I thought they should add HERF
: guns to the Brady Bill," Schwartau recalls.

Bureaucrats writing laws. [sic]

Oh No! Latest script-kiddee toy! (2)

Fish Man (20098) | more than 15 years ago | (#1691782)


Now that this has been publicised, every moronic script-kiddee is going to be riding around with one of these in the back of a pickup truck (an old one, without a computer controlled engine, presumably), letting the thing cut loose with a zap every couple of blocks.

Something to be looking forward to...


Re:Seen it before (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 15 years ago | (#1691787)

Yeah, the Doctor produced tons of innovations that he was never acknowledged for. The Daleks, Master, Cyberment, et. al. were equally innovative.

After all, weren't the Daleks actually the first Beowulf cluster (collective contieousness).

Re:hmm (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 15 years ago | (#1691788)

Case for driving an opressivly large and powerful 70's carborated muscle car. in fact... I am thinking Chevy El Camino, 454, 850CFM intake, velocity stacks, open headers (dont forget the vestigal sidepipes), and a HUGE "Sex, Drugs, and Internet" logo on the hood.

Re:Several options... (1)

alumshubby (5517) | more than 15 years ago | (#1691789)

Grasping here at another opportunity to be wrong, but I think a high-quality wok is pretty doggone close to a paraboloid. I think I'd still rather be several thousand yards away & pull the trigger by remote control, just the same.

Re:Faraday cage? (2)

Enry (630) | more than 15 years ago | (#1691790)

Your computer case is already a Faraday cage. The gaps in the machine (I/O brackets and the like) are small enough to prevent the RF from getting out, and it prevents most RF from coming in.

PCs that pass FCC A have to be able to accept bursts up to 4X the highest frequency in the device (i.e. 1-2Ghz range). Class B (residential) is harder to get, as the bursts are of more strength.

I didn't see anything about the machines themselves. Were they plain 'ol PCs with their covers on and everything, or were they open in any way?

HERF all spammers! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 15 years ago | (#1691791)

Is there a group out there that tracks known spammers? Just track them down and use this to eliminate the spam. Awesome!

Re:Cancer? (1)

sigurd (89883) | more than 15 years ago | (#1691792)

What doesn't? this must be one of the fun ways to get it:)

Re:More info? (2)

WowMan (50187) | more than 15 years ago | (#1691793)

These have been around for a while. They used
to be called "Police Radar Jammers".

The instructions were as simple as putting a
spark plug (source of all radio frequencies)
into a properly tuned wave guide.

I've not tried this, but it seems simple enough
to put "under the hood", even in your shirt
pocket! (Pocket sized radar detectors contain
a small wave guide.)

Imagine a radar detector waveguide with a small
spark gap installed in the cavity with the
spark gap energized by a pizo-ignition device
from something like a camping lantern.

The real challenge here is access to the High
Frequency test equipment neccessary to tune
the Wave Guide to whatever channel needs jamming.
Test instruments like this can cost $50,000!


Re:A wake up call ... to who? (1)

j-p.s (74232) | more than 15 years ago | (#1691796)

It's probably a "wake-up call" to people who feel they are running robust systems and therefore have no kind of back-up systems. However stable your OS, there is no weapon against the HERF gun, other than covering your computer in lead, dropping it in concrete and then burying the block at sea.

Which may be preferable to day-to-day sysadmin, if you're running NT.

Very informative document (2)

joq (63625) | more than 15 years ago | (#1691798)

Sorry for the c&pastin but I thought it was very
informative doc.



Weapons of Mass Destruction

Statement by

Victor Sheymov
ComShield Corporation

before the

Joint Economic Committee
United States Congress

Wednesday, May 20, 1998

"The Low Energy Radio Frequency Weapons Threat to Critical Infrastructure"

Mr. Chairman, members of the Committee,

I thank you for your concern and attention to the problem of terrorism, to the potential exploit of latest technological achievements of
this country by terrorists and other criminal groups. I also would like to thank you for this opportunity to bring attention to a potentially
dangerous and costly impact of the possible use of radio frequency (RF) weapons by terrorists and criminals. Special uses of RF
technology were a major part of my 27 years of involvement in intelligence, security, and technology matters, and I would like to share my
knowledge and experience into this are which is often misunderstood and largely ignored. I have somewhat split responsibility in this open
hearing: I want to shed some light on the problem but, at the same time, to avoid revealing crucial information to the terrorists who
undoubtedly are tuned in.

Within the wide ranging means of Information Warfare (IW), one of the prominent places belongs to IW attacks on computers and
computer-based equipment. Leaving physical destruction of computers aside, the IW attacks on computers could be classified as attacks
through legitimate gateways of the computer such as the modem and the keyboard (software attacks), and attacks through other than
legitimate gateways (backdoor attacks). At the current technological level, backdoor attacks can be carried out mainly by utilizing radio
frequency (RF) technology and thus can be classified as RF attacks.

Vulnerability of computers to software attacks is widely recognized, and efforts with substantial funding are underway with the goal of
developing protective technology to neutralize such attacks. The backdoor attacks, on the other hand, have little official recognition, and
adequate efforts to develop adequate protective technology do not seem to have taken place.

One premise underlies many special applications of RF technology and is based on a principal that any wire or electronic component is,
in fact, an unintended antenna, both transmitting and receiving. Importantly, every such unintended antenna is particularly responsive to its
specific resonance frequency, and to some extent, to several related frequencies. It is not responsive to all other frequencies under normal
conditions. If an objective is to eavesdrop on the device, then the EM emanations coming from functioning components of the device are
received by highly sensitive receiving equipment and processed in order to duplicate information handled by the device. If an objective is to
influence the device's functioning, then appropriate RF signals are transmitted to the targeted device. That RF signal, being received by
pertinent components of the device, would generate a corresponding signal within the device. Producing and transmitting a signal which
would effectively control the targeted device through a "back door" attack is an extremely difficult task that requires technology and
expertise available only in two or three countries is the world. At the same time, producing and transmitting a signal which would just
disrupt the normal functioning of the target devise is a much simpler technological task. It can be classified as a jamming "back door"
attack, or jamming RF attack. Conceivably, it can be done by a large number of parties.

Jamming RF attacks can utilize either high energy radio frequency (HERF), or low energy radio frequency (LERF) technology. HERF is
advanced technology, practical applications of which are still being developed. It is based on concentrating large amounts of RF EM energy
in within a small space, narrow frequency range and a very short period of time. The result of such concentration is an overpowering RF
EM impulse capable of causing substantial damage to electronic components. The HERF impulse is strong enough to damage electronics
components irrespective of their specific resonance frequencies.

LERF technology utilizes relatively low energy, which is spread over a wide frequency spectrum. It can, however, be no less effective
in disrupting normal functioning of computers as the HERF due to high probability that its wide spectrum contains frequencies matching
resonance frequencies of critical components. Generally, the LERF approach does not require time compression, nor does it utilize
high-tech components. This technology is not new and well known, albeit to limited circles of experts in some exotic subjects, such as
Tempest protection. LERF impact on computers and computer networks could be devastating. One of the dangerous aspects of a LERF
attack on a computer is that an unprotected computer would go into a "random output mode". This simply means that it is impossible to
predict what the computer would do. The malfunction could differ from a single easily correctable processing error to a total loss of its
memory and operating system, to giving a destructive command given to controlled by computer equipment. Furthermore, differently from a
simple computer failure, any level of redundancy cannot solve the problem. This point is rarely realized by computer users with the
assumption that a back-up computer provides a comfortable level of safety. This is certainly not true in regard to a LERF attack.

U.S. military puts high priority on minimizing collateral damage and applies high requirements to its weapons systems' accuracy. HERF
weapons' accuracy is relatively high, but it is not yet quite up to the military requirements. But this certainly is not a deterrence for
terrorists because collateral damage is what they are usually after in the first place. Considering known utilization of latest technology by
terrorists and drug cartels around the world, it is likely that HERF technology can be obtained and used by these criminal enterprises in
near time, possibly even before it finds its wide acceptance within the military.

Differently from HERF, LERF weapons are notoriously inaccurate, virtually by definition. LERF weapons' impact on computers is
devastating and highly indiscriminate. A very high percentage of computers within an effective range of a utilized LERF weapon will
malfunction. This is very likely to make these weapons an attractive choice for terrorists. While HERF weapons were substantially
covered during this Committee hearing on this subject in February of 1998, some details of LERF weapons seem to be worth discussing.

Contrary to a popular belief, different kinds of LERF weapons have already been used over the years, primarily in Eastern Europe. For
instance, during the Czechoslovakian invasion in 1968, the Soviet military received advanced notice that Czechoslovakian anti-Communist
activists had been wary of relying on the telephone communications controlled by the government, and prepared to use radio transceivers to
communicate between their groups for coordination of their resistance efforts. During the invasion Soviet military utilized RF jamming
aircraft from the Soviet air force base in Stryi, Western Ukraine. The aircraft were flying over Czechoslovakia, jamming all the radio
spectrum, with the exception of a few narrow pre-determined "windows" of RF spectrum utilized by the invading Soviet army. This
measure was successful, effectively nullifying communications between the Czechoslovakian resistance groups.

Another example of a LERF attack was the KGB's manipulation of the United States Embassy security system in Moscow in the
mid-80s. This was done in the course of the KGB operation against the Embassy which targeted the U.S. marines there. The security
system alarm was repeatedly falsely triggered by the KGB's induced RF interference several times during the night. This was an attempt
to annoy and fatigue the marines and to cause the turning of the "malfunctioning" system off.

Additional example of an RF attack was when the KGB used it to induce fire in one of the equipment rooms in the U.S. Embassy in
Moscow in 1977. A malfunction was forced on a piece of equipment. It caught fire, which spread over a sensitive area of the Embassy. The
KGB tried to infiltrate its bugging technicians into the sensitive area under the cover of the firefighters who arrived immediately after the
fire started. A similar event occurred at the British embassy in Moscow several years earlier.

These examples illustrate a much more advanced use of RF technology than a simple disruption of computers in a radius of several
hundred yards from the unleashed "RF bomb". An example of such a device was designed and built by the KGB in late 70-s. The device
was built for completely different purpose and was not used to disrupt computers. However, its potential as an "RF bomb" was clearly
realized at the time. Its reference cost was within one hundred dollars, size of about a shoe box, and it could be easily assembled within
two-three hours with general purpose tools and components readily available in an average electrical store. The only obstacle on the way
of this technology to terrorists' arsenals is a know-how, fortunately limited to a small number of experts in a few countries. However,
some of these experts are experiencing very difficult economic conditions in Russia. On the other hand, a sizable cash offer tempting to
these experts could come from any of the well funded terrorist groups at any time. This situation seems to indicate that relying on these
two potentially explosive components remaining separate from each other is less than wise.

Being a technological leader of the world, the United States has been vulnerable to an RF attack more than any other country for some
time. This vulnerability significantly increased during last fifteen years with wide utilization of computers in every aspect of this country's
functioning. At this time it is very difficult to find an area which would not rely heavily on computers. In fact, this country is so dependent
on computers that many even vital functions cannot be performed manually. At the same time, it is important to realize that all those
computers performing important and vital services are not protected from an RF attack. Areas like air traffic control, commercial airliners,
energy and water distribution systems, and disaster and emergency response services represent attractive targets for terrorists. At the
same time these systems are totally open to an RF attack. By the nature of computers and computer networks, the failure of one
sub-system would trigger a snow-balling effect with second, third, and following chain failures. The full effect of such an event is difficult
even to predict, lest to neutralize, unless computers and computer networks are reliably protected against RF weapons. A serious RF
attack on critical infrastructure would have an impact of national level with numerous losses of life and incalculable economic damage.
Besides the show-balling effect of computer failures, there could be a crippling effect if RF weapons used in concert with any other type of
terrorist attack. Most of the responses to other forms of terrorist attacks are designed with the assumption that the computers of the
response service are working and such functions as traffic control are intact. With an additional RF attack, concerted with the primary one,
this assumption is not valid. Communications and transportation of the response teams could be crippled with a tragic impact on rescue

Even a single limited and attack could have serious consequences. For instance, an attack on computers of financial markets could
have a world-wide implications with losses easily reaching multi-billion levels.

In addition to intentional RF interference, current technological developments lead to a problem of unintentional RF interference. Indeed,
with the speed of modern computers and their miniaturization advancing at a rapid pace, their working frequency and sensitivity to RF
emanations is also increasing. This leads to unavoidable interference conflicts, some of which have already shown themselves and led to
an intermediary solution of regulatory nature. For instance, even barely emanating electronic equipment such as lap-top computers and
electronic games needs to be turned off during take-off and landing of commercial airliners.

Another aspect of offensive RF technology is its traditional application in information intercept or eavesdropping. Traditionally, the
Soviet Union and Russia have placed high priority on the development and use of this technology. Being one of the two "superpowers" in
this area, Russia considers its spending on RF offensive operations a very wise and profitable investment.

Changes of last decade in Russia impacted the KGB, which has been split into independent parts. The 8th and 16th Directorates,
roughly representing Russian equivalent of the NSA, became an independent agency, the Federal Agency of Government Communications
and Information (FAPSI, as a Russian acronym). FAPSI is directly subordinate to the President of Russia. In a wave of privatization,
FAPSI was partially "privatized" as well. Some of the leading FAPSI experts left the agency and founded private security companies,
taking best officers of all levels along. These companies cater mainly to Russian private financial institutions and provide a wide range of
security services. They are fully capable of carrying out any defensive and offensive operations with equal level of confidence.

The concentration of world-class experts on offensive electronic operations in these few companies by far surpasses any private entity
in the world and exceeds capability of most governments. These experts can easily intercept and provide to their clients virtually any
commercial information of any country. Commercially available means of electronic information security present no practical difficulties for
them. Intercept of commercial and financial information could be extremely profitable and create the capability to manipulate international
financial markets as well as to carry large scale international money-laundering operations with very limited operational risk.

Financial success of these FAPSI private spin-off companies and high earnings of their employees make them very attractive "golden
parachutes" for the remaining FAPSI officers. Combined with traditionally close ties, this leads to continuing effective technological and
personnel cooperation between the FAPSI and these companies. At the same time, the end of the Cold War somewhat shifted goals,
objectives, and some targets of the FAPSI toward a heavier emphasis on intercept of technological, commercial and financial information.
In this regard, some of the targets are easier to attack from a position of a private company. This leads to a likely close operational
cooperation between the FAPSI and its private spin-off companies. The private companies can provide the FAPSI with some of the
products of their intercept, while FAPSI can also share some of its products, along with personnel and equipment, including its powerful
and sophisticated facilities, such as the Lourdes in Cuba, for a very productive long-range intercept.

This situation can easily put American private business in a highly unfavorable competitive position.

All of the above seems to demonstrate an urgent necessity to develop technology for computer protection against both intentional and
unintentional RF interference, as well as against illegal intercept of sensitive and proprietary information by foreign competitors. It can take
a few days to build a LERF weapon. It takes a few weeks or a few months to establish a successful collection of information through RF
intercept. However, it should be realized that developing adequate computer protective technology, even for limited applications, would
take at least two years. There seems to be a certain disconnect between appropriate U.S. technical experts and political decision makers,
who are ultimately responsible for strategic course of technological efforts of this country. This disconnect needs to be mended and
coordinated efforts should take place for developing protection of computers against RF attacks.

In conclusion, I would like to state that it seems that the question that we are facing is not whether we need to develop adequate RF
protective technology or whether we can afford to protect our computers from possible RF attacks. The real question is whether we can
afford to not protect at least critical infrastructure computers. The ultimate decision on this dilemma is a prerogative of the United States

I would like to thank you again for your kind invitation to appear before this Committee and for this opportunity to comment on a very
important matter.

Re:Mobile Phone Killer (1)

AngusSF (34059) | more than 15 years ago | (#1691799)

When I first saw this I thought it might be a Tempest in a T-pot, but it actually has some potential.

I can see the cops grabbing onto this one and developing a car-stopper -- imagine if they'd had one of these to "shoot down" OJ Simpson during the white Bronco chase.

A good side effect of this would be an end to the wacko-driver videos shot from helicopters.

Do you think this might be the end of the flying cop-ter that intrudes upon us from above?

Uses (2)

Hermetic (85784) | more than 15 years ago | (#1691807)

Of course the uses for such a device would be both good and bad. I think I want one for all of the people who drive down my street with their radios turned all the way up.


Cancer? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 15 years ago | (#1691808)

Don't HERF guns give you cancer?

A boon for Y2K consultants. (3)

bob_jordan (39836) | more than 15 years ago | (#1691809)

Just think what this sort of technology would be worth to y2k consultants! There you are doing your sales pitch of why a company must hire you to fix all there computers. You set the clock of one of their computers to a few seconds before 2000 and as they are busy watching the screen, all it takes is a nonchalant wave of an arm near a window and every computer in the building chrashes. Eat your heart out Dogbert. And of course if there are any companies that don't pay up, you can pay them a visit on New Years Eve and turn the power up.


(Who if you can't tell, is joking)

Imagine the possibilities (4)

emag (4640) | more than 15 years ago | (#1691810)

I've wanted to build one of these things for at least 8 years now, but have never had a) the time, b) the knowledge, c) the motivation. Especially after reading (parts of) Winn Schwarau's "Information Warfare" doorstop, I could just see the potential uses for this.

Imagine one of these scenarios:
  • You're driving down the highway, blissfully ignorant of the speed limit. Suddenly, you see those blue and red lights flashing behind you. Panic? You? Nah. You hit that extra button below the rear defroster, and suddenly you're in the clear. Or better yet, you let yourself get pulled over, and then while waiting to ask if there's a problem, the other car starts acting funny...

  • From the book: Someone in a van drives around the computing center of a bank. Hits a button. Computers start to drool. Wait a random amount of time, do it again.

  • Your (former) employer doesn't believe that they need to worry about information warfare because "the firewall will protect us." Wait for the night before a drop, or the day of a demo, and suddenly the development machines, not to mention the firewall, are dead.

As much as I'd love to have plans for one of these HERF guns, I think that it would probably make it too easy for "hardware script kiddies" to then go out and wreak havoc. What I'd really like is a reading list (preferably with difficulty ratings) on what to study to be able to design your own.

Re:Uses (1)

teraflop user (58792) | more than 15 years ago | (#1691811)

And neighbours in crowded streets who play their music too loud. And people on trains who play their portable stereos to loud.

In fact, I can think of no useful uses against computers, but heaps against sound systems.

Security/Activism device. (1)

Tekmage (17375) | more than 15 years ago | (#1691812)

Don't know how healthy this is (heavy doses of RF being "not very"), but it certainly sounds like an effective way to neutralize eavesdropping devices.

And if you want to enforce a no-vehicle zone... Instant barracade/blockade. Any guesses as to when we'll see these being used by Greenpeace?

Script-kiddee: maybe not (1)

MostlyHarmless (75501) | more than 15 years ago | (#1691813)

I dunno... it seems to take a little more skill than your average script. Even if you get the plans for a HERF gun, you still have to know how to solder (and possibly weld; I can't tell without the plans). Anyone can copy and paste computer code, but it takes at least a tiny bit of skill to construct electrical/mechanical devices. At least the HERF gun will attract a higher class of script kiddees... :-/

"Rash of local accidents traced to child hackers" (3)

Hrunting (2191) | more than 15 years ago | (#1691814)

Actually, knowing all our script kiddie friends, they would probably be rolling along in their parents' brand-new Expedition or something and be trying this thing out. Somehow, I doubt a script kiddie would be smart enough to realize that it's going to affect their car as well.

I can see the headlines now (and they're not getting the terminology correct)!

Re:Who needs HERF when you have neighbors? (1)

quonsar (61695) | more than 15 years ago | (#1691815)

Go talk to your ham radio neighbor. If he's a typical ham, he'll assist you in eliminating the interference.

Now, I wonder what FCC would think about the unlicensed use of a device "pushing a 20 megawatt burst of undisciplined radio noise through an antenna." Not much, I'll wager!

"Cyberspace scared me so bad I downloaded in my pants." --- Buddy Jellison

Re:More info? (1)

fatboy (6851) | more than 15 years ago | (#1691816)

All of them ;)

Re:Who needs HERF when you have neighbors? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 15 years ago | (#1691828)

Three letter solution to your neighbor problem: FCC

anticompetitive practises (1)

hany (3601) | more than 15 years ago | (#1691829)

so now real anticompetitive practises can start.

imagine disabling your competitor's server/network/... just for The Right Moment(tm) ...


And in other news... (2)

Johnboy (15518) | more than 15 years ago | (#1691830)

Alan Cox has already started working on including anti-HERF support in the next kernel.

Meanwhile, two high school students in Des Moines Iowa have demonstrated BeoHERF, a beowolf cluster of HERF guns.

Accuracy, Range (1)

Hermetic (85784) | more than 15 years ago | (#1691831)

I assume the accuracy and range could be improved by constucting better parabolic reflectors.
Or, better yet, a Mag-Lite style adjustable beam.
With the proper shielding on one side of the device and decent reflectors, it may well be safe to use regardless of what is around you.

Re:Faraday cage? (1)

sporty (27564) | more than 15 years ago | (#1691832)

It's probably a matter over whos is more powerful... you know, like those cheezy TV shows where there is this small struggle until one gives way.

Possible use of this device (5)

Markee (72201) | more than 15 years ago | (#1691833)

Everyone's afraid of a new class of terrorism that seems to be emerging. Bombing and shooting people is for dumbos. These days, smart terrorists disrupt the use of technologies like phone, cell phone and computers. This is a device for them.
Imagine this device placed near a major phone line hub... within view of a cell phone transmitter... on a highway bridge, the latest "drive-by-wire" cars passing beneath it... on an airport... at a stock exchange... Devices like this, at a handy size, could be as dangerous to economics as a gun is to an individual.
I wonder if there is a law against things like that.

Implications (1)

shadow0_0 (59720) | more than 15 years ago | (#1691834)

This is scary. Considering the ease to built and the low cost, it is just the perfect terrorists' weapon...
Load More Comments
Slashdot Login

Need an Account?

Forgot your password?