Friday, June 21, 2013

The Scary Truth Of How Terrorists Could Crash Your Car -

The Scary Truth Of How Terrorists Could Crash Your Car

magine this grisly scenario: You're driving down the interstate with the cruise control set at the speed limit. Without warning, your car accelerates. The speedometer pushes past 100 miles per hour. Suddenly, the car turns left and crashes into the concrete median....
"Cars basically look like they have for 50 years, but underneath they've changed dramatically," said John D. Lee, a mechanical engineering professor at the University of Wisconsin. "A car is a rolling computer network with 80 to 100 microprocessors and 100 million lines of code."

It's become such a concern that last year, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration quietly opened up a cyber terrorism department to keep track of software issues that could make cars vulnerable to attack.

Software is entwined with every conceivable system aboard today's vehicles, linking everything from brakes, powertrain and throttle to infotainment, Bluetooth connection and MP3 players.

Connected cars -– or rolling computers -– hold great promise for automotive safety. Human error causes more than 90 percent of the 10.8 million motor-vehicle accidents in the U.S. each year, according to Mitch Bainwol, chairman and CEO of the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers. Safety developments both inside the car and along the highway could dramatically reduce accidents and fatalities.

But there is a dark side. Experts fear terrorists could launch an attack by breaching security in the software of a particular automaker or, in the years ahead, through the wireless infrastructure being developed to provide information for connected cars.

Critical systems hacked

"Can some 14-year-old in Indonesia shut a bunch of cars down because everything is wired up?" That's the question U.S. Senator Jay Rockefeller posed to a panel of automotive experts during a Senate Commerce Committee hearing last month.

The short answer is yes. Researchers from the University of Washington and University of California-San Diego hacked into an ordinary, mid-priced, late-model sedan available to any consumer. They unlocked car doors, eavesdropped on conversations, turned the engine on and off and compromised critical vehicle systems.

In a follow-up experiment, the researchers, affiliated with the Center for Automotive Embedded Systems Security, breached all sorts of security measures, uploading malware from a doctored CD and obtaining "full control" over the sedan's telematics unit by calling the car's cell phone, according to their research.

They also compromised a Pass-Thru device, which helps auto technicians diagnose problems, which allowed them to subsequently connect to every car that later was plugged into that device. This was particularly troublesome, because it meant hackers could infiltrate more than one car from a single entry point.

"We demonstrate the ability to adversarially control a wide range of automotive functions and completely ignore driver input –- including disabling the brakes, selectively braking individual wheels on demand, stopping the engine, and so on," the CAESS researchers wrote.

Another daunting conclusion that presents complications for crash investigators: The researchers successfully attacked the car's telematics unit in a way that "will completely erase any evidence of its presence after a crash."

Since the studies were completed, in 2010 and 2011, much has changed, and not necessarily for the better.

Wireless multiplies potential risks

Automakers are now wirelessly updating software. Customers can use services like OnStar's RemoteLink to unlock their doors and monitor their cars on their iPhones. Researchers are beginning to connect cars both with one another and through smart infrastructure that will help govern self-driving cars. All these wireless transactions multiplies risk....
-bth: this threat is very real.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Revealed: the top secret rules that allow NSA to use US data without a warrant -Guardian

Revealed: the top secret rules that allow NSA to use US data without a warrant | World news |

Top secret documents submitted to the court that oversees surveillance by US intelligence agencies show the judges have signed off on broad orders which allow the NSA to make use of information "inadvertently" collected from domestic US communications without a warrant.

The Guardian is publishing in full two documents submitted to the secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (known as the Fisa court), signed by Attorney General Eric Holder and stamped 29 July 2009. They detail the procedures the NSA is required to follow to target "non-US persons" under its foreign intelligence powers and what the agency does to minimize data collected on US citizens and residents in the course of that surveillance.

The documents show that even under authorities governing the collection of foreign intelligence from foreign targets, US communications can still be collected, retained and used....

Scrapping equipment key to Afghan drawdown - The Washington Post

...The Pentagon has determined that it will no longer have use for about 12,300 of its 25,500 MRAPs scattered at bases worldwide, officials said. In Afghanistan, the military has labeled about 2,000 of its roughly 11,000 MRAPs “excess.” About 9,000 will be shipped to the United States and U.S. military bases in Kuwait and elsewhere, but the majority of the unwanted vehicles — which cost about $1 million each — will probably be shredded, officials said, because they are unlikely to find clients willing to come pick them up.

“MRAPs have served us well in the current war, but we will not need all that we bought for Iraq and Afghanistan in the future,” Alan Estevez, the assistant secretary of defense for logistics and materiel readiness, said in a statement. “It is cost prohibitive to retrograde and reset MRAPs that we do not need for the future.”...

-bth: beyond the obvious of giving them to the Afghans or to any number of other allies at a bargain price, it should be noted that the army will want these vehicles off the books because that way they can justify the need to congress to build new joint vehicles.  Furthermore, my fear is that the army brass and defense contractors will pretend that we no longer need to plan for mines and IEDs.  This same stupidity happened right after Vietnam and the First Gulf War.  IEDs are here to stay and we had better design accordingly.

AP EXCLUSIVE: Taliban offer to free US soldier in exchange for Afghans held at Guantanamo

AP EXCLUSIVE: Taliban offer to free US soldier in exchange for Afghans held at Guantanamo - The Washington Post

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan — The Afghan Taliban are ready to free a U.S. army soldier held captive since 2009 in exchange for five of their senior operatives imprisoned at Guantanamo Bay as a conciliatory gesture, a senior spokesman for the group said Thursday.

The offer follows this week’s official opening of a Taliban political office in Doha, the capital of the Gulf state of Qatar....

-bth: do it.

The US Is No Longer The King Of Shale Oil & Gas -Zerohedge

The US Is No Longer The King Of Shale Oil & Gas | Zero Hedge

If you thought the US was the king of shale, we are sorry to burst your bubble... it no longer wears the crown. China has more proven oil reserves than the US. As the following chart shows - from the EIA's 730-page report, which assesses the shale formations of 41 countries - the global race for shale development has started. As Casey Research's energy report discusses, countries that are not now known for their oil and gas production are showing much shale oil and gas promise.


-bth; could oil shalre producition break OPEC?

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Former soldier's cancer death sparks AMA calls for investigation into bomb signal jammer

Former soldier's cancer death sparks AMA calls for investigation into bomb signal jammer - ABC News (Australian Broadcasting Corporation)

The Australian Medical Association wants an investigation into the military's use of a special bomb-jamming device after a former soldier died of cancer.

Kevin Dillon, 28, died after returning from Afghanistan, where he carried what is known as an electronic countermeasures (ECM) backpack.

The backpack contained radio transmitters, which are used to scramble the mobile phone signals insurgents use to detonate improvised explosive devices (IEDs).

AMA president Dr Steve Hambleton says there needs to be follow-up for soldiers who use them.

"These people have put their lives on the line for Australia," he said.

"If there is any concern, we should take it very seriously and have a look at it to make sure that our soldiers are safe, and if they're not, then they understand the risks because they will need follow-up."

But the Minister for Defence Science and Personnel, Warren Snowdon, says he believed the case is the first where a link between the devices and cancer has been alleged....

-bth: this needs to be examined further.  There are trade-offs in these matters and probably the risk of setting off an IED outweighs the risk of cancer.  That said, the Australian Medical Assoc. aren't a bunch of quacks. It needs to be looked into and perhaps cross checked with US incidences of cancer.

How Cash Secretly Rules Surveillance Policy - Bill Moyers

How Cash Secretly Rules Surveillance Policy | Perspectives, What Matters Today |

....Simply put, there are huge corporate forces with a vested financial interest in making sure the debate over security is tilted toward the surveillance state and against critics of that surveillance state. In practice, that means when those corporations spend big money on campaign contributions, they aren’t just buying votes for specific private contracts. They are also implicitly pressuring politicians’ to rhetorically push the discourse in a pro-surveillance, anti-civil liberties direction – that is, in a direction that preserves the larger political assumptions on which the profits of the entire surveillance-industrial complex are based.

The success of that pressure is exemplified by the title of yesterday’s congressional hearing with the head of the NSA, Gen. Keith Alexander. The hearing doesn’t ask why Alexander lied to Congress or whether the NSA has engaged in illegal acts. No, a Congress bankrolled by firms like Booz Allen predictably calls the hearing “How Disclosed NSA Programs Protect Americans & Why Disclosure Aids Our Adversaries” – the two preconceived assumption being that 1) the NSA’s surveillance programs, which generate huge profits for companies like Booz, are beneficial to Americans’ security and 2) critics of those programs hurt the country.

None of this, by the way, is exclusive to debates over domestic national security policy. As Booz Allen’s business model suggests, there are also foreign policy implications to the pay-to-play culture....

Russia: Iran is ready to Cease Enriching Uranium to 20% - Juan Cole

Russia: Iran is ready to Cease Enriching Uranium to 20% | Informed Comment

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov repeated in an interview with the Kuwaiti press on Tuesday an assertion he has made before, i.e. that Iran stands ready to cease enriching uranium to 19.75% for the purpose of fueling its medical reactor. This level of enrichment was forced on Iran when it ran out of enriched uranium for its small reactor that produces medical isotopes for treating cancer. Iran had bought a stock of fuel from Argentina before the latter mothballed its nuclear program. Most of Iran’s enrichment is to only 3.5% for making fuel for nuclear reactors so as to produce electricity, but it does have some of the 19.75% enrichment level (the last level considered “Low Enriched Uranium” (LEU). Israel and the US are worried that this stock could be most easily further enriched to the 90% or so necessary to produce a nuclear bomb.....

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

China Set To Grab UAV Market While US Restricts Sales

China Set To Grab UAV Market While US Restricts Sales | StratRisks

PARIS: Psst. Hey mister. Wanna buy a UAV? China’s got drones for shooting, drones for intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance, and drones for target practice. Cheap prices and no arms export restrictions.

And China may grab a significant share of the international market for just those reasons, according to a new report by the U.S-China Economic and Security Review Commission. Breaking Defense obtained a copy of the report: China’s Military Unmanned Aerial Vehicle Industry

The irony would be, of course, that the United States has largely created that demand by demonstrating the utility of drones (UAVs, Remotely Piloted Aircraft — RPAs — pick your term) in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen, Iraq and other locales over the last decade.

Here’s what the report’s author, Kimberly Hsu, concludes:

“Surging domestic and international market demand for UAVs, from both military and civilian customers, will continue to buoy growth of the Chinese industry. Chinese defense firms do not face the same export restrictions as top UAV-exporting countries, such as the United States and Israel. As a result, China could become a key UAV proliferator, particularly to developing countries.”

Currently, the great majority of Chinese drones are tactical, but Hsu says that “in the long term, China’s continued interest and progression in strategic-level UAVs appear poised to position China as a leader in the high-end UAV market.” A major reason is that China is not a member of either the Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR) or the looser but broader Wassenaar Arrangement. “In the absence of competition from more sophisticated U.S. or Israeli alternatives, China could become a key proliferator to non-members of the MTCR or Wassenaar,” she concludes.....

Is Sri Lanka Becoming A Key Player In China’s String Of Pearls? - Stratrisks

Is Sri Lanka Becoming A Key Player In China’s String Of Pearls? | StratRisks

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Iran to send 4,000 troops to aid President Assad forces in Syria

Iran to send 4,000 troops to aid President Assad forces in Syria - Middle East - World - The Independent

...Iranian sources say they liaise constantly with Moscow, and that while Hizballah’s overall withdrawal from Syria is likely to be completed soon – with the maintenance of the militia’s ‘intelligence’ teams inside Syria – Iran’s support for Damascus will grow rather than wither.  They point out that the Taliban recently sent a formal delegation for talks in Tehran and that America will need Iran’s help in withdrawing from Afghanistan.  The US, the Iranians say, will not be able to take its armour and equipment out of the country during its continuing war against the Taliban without Iran’s active assistance.  One of the sources claimed – not without some mirth -- that the French were forced to leave 50 tanks behind when they left because they did not have Tehran’s help.

It is a sign of the changing historical template in the Middle East that within the framework of old Cold War rivalries between Washington and Moscow, Israel’s security has taken second place to the conflict in Syria.  Indeed, Israel’s policies in the region have been knocked askew by the Arab revolutions, leaving its prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, hopelessly adrift amid the historic changes....