Entries Tagged "Israel"

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Israel Implementing IFF System for Commercial Aircraft

Israel is implementing an IFF (identification, friend or foe) system for commercial aircraft, designed to differentiate legitimate planes from terrorist-controlled planes.

The news article implies that it’s a basic challenge-and-response system. Ground control issues some kind of alphanumeric challenge to the plane. The pilot types the challenge into some hand-held computer device, and reads back the reply. Authentication is achieved by 1) physical possession of the device, and 2) typing a legitimate PIN into the device to activate it.

The article talks about a distress mode, where the pilot signals that a terrorist is holding a gun to his head. Likely, that’s done by typing a special distress PIN into the device, and reading back whatever the screen displays.

The military has had this sort of system—first paper-based, and eventually computer-based—for decades. The critical issue with using this on commercial aircraft is how to deal with user error. The system has to be easy enough to use, and the parts hard enough to lose, that there won’t be a lot of false alarms.

Posted on March 10, 2008 at 12:24 PMView Comments

Airport Security: Israel vs. the United States

A comparison:

We were subjected to a 15-minute interrogation at the airport in Eilat, in southern Israel, after spending the weekend in neighboring Jordan. The young, bespectacled security official was robotic and driven in his questioning. He asked to see a copy of my husband’s invitation to his conference. The full names of anyone we knew in Israel. More and more questions, raising suspicions that started to make me feel guilty.

“Did you give anyone your e-mail or phone number? Did anyone want to stay in contact with you?” He had us pegged for naive travelers who could become the tool of terrorists.

He even went through our digital photos, stopping at a picture of a little boy, holding a baby goat. “Who is this?”

“It’s a Bedouin,” I snapped. “We don’t have his contact information.”

In the same calm tone, he told me not to become angry. Later I realized it was a necessary part of traveling in Israel, as a safety precaution. Ironically, we didn’t have to throw away our water bottles or take off our shoes when we passed through the security gate—which made me wonder at the effectiveness of U.S. policies at airports.

Regularly I hear people talking about Israeli airport security, and asking why we can’t do the same in the U.S. The short answer is: scale. Israel has 11 million airline passengers a year; there are close to 700 million in the U.S. Israel has seven airports; the U.S. has over 400 “primary” airports—and who knows how many others. Things that can work there just don’t scale to the U.S.

Posted on July 3, 2007 at 3:13 PMView Comments

Recognizing a Suicide Bomber

Fascinating story of an Israeli taxi driver who picked up a suicide bomber. What’s interesting to me is how the driver comes to realize his passenger is a suicide bomber. It wasn’t anything that comes up on a profile, but a feeling that something is wrong:

Mr Woltinsky said he realised straight away that something was not quite right.

“When he got into my car, I had a bad feeling because he did not behave normally—his eyes, his nerves—and the fact he was wearing a big red jacket even though it was hot.

“I asked him where he wanted to go but he didn’t say anything, just waved his hand.

“When I asked him again, he said only one word, “Haifa”, in an Arab accent. Haifa is hundreds of kilometres away, so now I was almost 100% sure he was a suicide bomber.”

In other words, his passanger was acting hinky.

EDITED TO ADD (2/1): The Israeli was not a taxi driver. Apologies.

Posted on February 1, 2007 at 6:26 AMView Comments

Did Hezbollah Crack Israeli Secure Radio?

According to Newsday:

Hezbollah guerrillas were able to hack into Israeli radio communications during last month’s battles in south Lebanon, an intelligence breakthrough that helped them thwart Israeli tank assaults, according to Hezbollah and Lebanese officials.

Using technology most likely supplied by Iran, special Hezbollah teams monitored the constantly changing radio frequencies of Israeli troops on the ground. That gave guerrillas a picture of Israeli movements, casualty reports and supply routes. It also allowed Hezbollah anti-tank units to more effectively target advancing Israeli armor, according to the officials.

Read the article. Basically, the problem is operational error:

With frequency-hopping and encryption, most radio communications become very difficult to hack. But troops in the battlefield sometimes make mistakes in following secure radio procedures and can give an enemy a way to break into the frequency-hopping patterns. That might have happened during some battles between Israel and Hezbollah, according to the Lebanese official. Hezbollah teams likely also had sophisticated reconnaissance devices that could intercept radio signals even while they were frequency-hopping.

I agree with this comment from The Register:

Claims that Hezbollah fighters were able to use this intelligence to get some intelligence on troop movement and supply routes are plausible, at least to the layman, but ought to be treated with an appropriate degree of caution as they are substantially corroborated by anonymous sources.

But I have even more skepticism. If indeed Hezbollah was able to do this, the last thing they want is for it to appear in the press. But if Hezbollah can’t do this, then a few good disinformation stories are a good thing.

Posted on September 20, 2006 at 2:35 PMView Comments

Press Security Concerns in Lebanon

Problems of reporting from a war zone:

Among broadcasters there is a concern about how our small convoys of cars full of equipment and personnel look from the air. There is a risk Israelis (eyes in the sky: drones, satellites) could mistake them for a Hezbollah convoy headed closer to the border and within striking distance of Israel. So simply being on the road with several vehicles is a risk.

Plus, when we fire up our broadcast signals it is unclear what we look like to Israeli military monitoring stations. If there are a number of broadcasters firing up signals from the same remote place, the hope is that the Israelis would identify it as media signals, and not Hezbollah rocket electronics, and thus avoid being a target.

Posted on July 26, 2006 at 5:56 AM

Patrick Smith on Airline Security

Patrick Smith writes the “Ask the Pilot” column for Salon. He’s written two very good posts on airline security, one about how Israel’s system won’t work in the U.S., and the other about profiling:

…here’s a more useful quiz:

  • In 1985, Air India Flight 182 was blown up over the Atlantic by:

    a. Muslim male extremists mostly between the ages of 17 and 40
    b. Bill O’Reilly
    c. The Mormon Tabernacle Choir
    d. Indian Sikh extremists, in retaliation for the Indian Army’s attack on the Golden Temple shrine in Amritsar

  • In 1986, who attempted to smuggle three pounds of explosives onto an El Al jetliner bound from London to Tel Aviv?

    a. Muslim male extremists mostly between the ages of 17 and 40
    b. Michael Smerconish
    c. Bob Mould
    d. A pregnant Irishwoman named Anne Murphy

  • In 1962, in the first-ever successful sabotage of a commercial jet, a Continental Airlines 707 was blown up with dynamite over Missouri by:

    a. Muslim male extremists mostly between the ages of 17 and 40
    b. Ann Coulter
    c. Henry Rollins
    d. Thomas Doty, a 34-year-old American passenger, as part of an insurance scam

  • In 1994, who nearly succeeded in skyjacking a DC-10 and crashing it into the Federal Express Corp. headquarters?

    a. Muslim male extremists mostly between the ages of 17 and 40
    b. Michelle Malkin
    c. Charlie Rose
    d. Auburn Calloway, an off-duty FedEx employee and resident of Memphis, Tenn.

  • In 1974, who stormed a Delta Air Lines DC-9 at Baltimore-Washington Airport, intending to crash it into the White House, and shot both pilots?

    a. Muslim male extremists mostly between the ages of 17 and 40
    b. Joe Scarborough
    c. Spalding Gray
    d. Samuel Byck, an unemployed tire salesman from Philadelphia

The answer, in all cases, is D.

Racial profiling doesn’t work against terrorism, because terrorists don’t fit any racial profile.

Posted on June 19, 2006 at 7:22 AMView Comments

Automobile Identity Theft

This scam was uncovered in Israel:

  1. Thief rents a car.
  2. An identical car, legitimately owned, is found and its “identity” stolen.
  3. The stolen identity is applied to the rented car and is then offered for sale in a newspaper ad.
  4. Innocent buyer purchases the car from the thief as a regular private party sale.
  5. After a few days the thief steals the car back from the buyer and returns it to the rental shop.

What ended up happening is that the “new” owners claimed compensation for the theft and most of the damage was absorbed by the insurers.


Posted on September 21, 2005 at 7:45 AMView Comments

Israeli Barrier Around Gaza

Putting aside geopolitics for a minute (whether I call it a “wall” or a “fence” is a political decision, for example), it’s interesting to read the technical security details about the barrier the Israelis built around Gaza:

Remote control machine guns, robotic jeeps, a double fence, ditches and pillboxes along with digitally-linked commanders are all part of the IDF’s new 60-kilometer layered protection around the Gaza Strip.


The army has set up a large swath of land around the Strip for placing barbed wire coils, an electronic fence, and two patrol roads named Hoovers Alef and Hoovers Bet. There will also be a third patrol road a few hundred meters from the fence. All the land was “purchased” from the border settlements by the Defense Ministry. The army said it would allow farmers to work some of the land if possible.

Besides the barriers, the army has relocated over 50 cement pillboxes from their location inside the Gaza Strip to the new border. Some of these will be equipped with 50-caliber machine guns with laser sights that can be fired from control rooms equipped with monitors and radar along the border.


The IDF is also taking into account that the Palestinians may try to dig tunnels under the fence, but would not elaborate on steps it was taking to thwart such action.

In Beyond Fear pages 207-8, I wrote about the technical details of the Berlin Wall. This is far more sophisticated.

Posted on September 12, 2005 at 11:32 AMView Comments

Major Israeli Computer Espionage Case

This is a fascinating story of computer espionage.

Dozens of leading companies and top private investigators were named yesterday as suspects in a massive industrial espionage investigation that local police have been conducting for the past six months.

The companies suspected of commissioning the espionage, which was carried out by planting Trojan horse software in their competitors’ computers, include the satellite television company Yes, which is suspected of spying on cable television company HOT; cell-phone companies Pelephone and Cellcom, suspected of spying on their mutual rival Partner; and Mayer, which imports Volvos and Hondas to Israel and is suspected of spying on Champion Motors, importer of Audis and Volkswagens. Spy programs were also located in the computers of major companies such as Strauss-Elite, Shekem Electric and the business daily Globes.

Read the whole story; it’s filled with interesting details. To me, the most interesting is that even though the Trojan was installed on computers at dozens of Israel’s top companies, it was discovered only because the Trojan writer also used it to spy after his ex-in-laws.

There’s a lesson here for all computer criminals.

Edited to add: Much more information here.

Posted on May 31, 2005 at 7:17 AMView Comments

Sidebar photo of Bruce Schneier by Joe MacInnis.