Entries Tagged "war"

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Ant Warfare

Interesting:

According to Moffett, we might actually learn a thing or two from how ants wage war. For one, ant armies operate with precise organization despite a lack of central command. “We’re accustomed to being told what to do,” Moffett says. “I think there’s something to be said for fewer layers of control and oversight.”

Which, according to Moffett, is what can make human cyberwar and terrorist cells so effective. Battles waged on the web are often “downright ant-like,” with massive, networked groups engaging in strategic teamwork to rise up with little hierarchy. “Such ‘weak ties’ ­ wide-ranging connections that take us beyond the tight-knit groups we interact with regularly — are likely of special importance in organizing both ants and people,” Moffett notes in his book.

Posted on August 9, 2010 at 7:12 AMView Comments

WikiLeaks Insurance File

Now this is an interesting development:

In the wake of strong U.S. government statements condemning WikiLeaks’ recent publishing of 77,000 Afghan War documents, the secret-spilling site has posted a mysterious encrypted file labeled “insurance.”

The huge file, posted on the Afghan War page at the WikiLeaks site, is 1.4 GB and is encrypted with AES256. The file’s size dwarfs the size of all the other files on the page combined. The file has also been posted on a torrent download site.

It’s either 1.4 Gig of embarrassing secret documents, or 1.4 Gig of random data bluffing. There’s no way to know.

If WikiLeaks wanted to prove that their “insurance” was the real thing, they should have done this:

  1. Encrypt each document with a separate AES key.
  2. Ask someone to publicly tell them to choose a random document.
  3. Publish the decryption key for that document only.

That would be convincing.

In any case, some of the details might be wrong. The file might not be encrypted with AES256. It might be Blowfish. It might be OpenSSL. It might be something else. Some more info here.

EDITED TO ADD (8/9): Weird Iranian paranoia:

An Iranian IT expert warned here on Wednesday that a mysterious download file posted by the WikiLeaks website, labeled as ‘Insurance’, is likely a spy software used for identifying the information centers of the United States’ foes.

“The mysterious file of the WikiLeaks might be a trap for intelligence gathering,” Hossein Mohammadi told FNA on Wednesday.

The expert added that the file will attract US opponents and Washington experts can identify their enemy centers by monitoring individuals’ or organizations’ tendency and enthusiasm for the file.

Posted on August 4, 2010 at 7:52 AMView Comments

TacSat-3 "Hyperspectral" Spy Satellite

It’s operational:

The idea of hyperspectral sensing is not, however, merely to “see” in the usual sense of optical telescopes, infrared nightscopes and/or thermal imagers. This kind of detection is used on spy satellites and other surveillance systems, but it suffers from the so-called “drinking straw effect” — that is, you can only view a small area in enough detail to pick out information of interest. It’s impossible to cover an entire nation or region in any length of time by such means; you have to know where to look in advance.

Hyperspectral imaging works differently. It’s based on the same principle as the spectrometry used in astronomy and other scientific fields – that some classes of objects and substances will emit a unique set of wavelengths when stimulated by energy. In this case, everything on the surface below the satellite is being stimulated by sunlight to emit its unique spectral fingerprint.

By scanning across a wide spectrum all at once across a wide area, it’s then possible to use a powerful computer to crunch through all wavelengths coming from all points on the surface below (the so-called “hyperspectral cube”, made up of the full spectrum coming from all points on a two-dimensional surface).

If the sensor is good enough and the computer crunching powerful and discriminating enough, the satellite can then identify a set of points on the surface where substances or objects of interest are to be found, and supply map coordinates for these. This is a tiny amount of data compared to the original “hyperspectral cube” generated by ARTEMIS and crunched by the satellite’s onboard processors, and as such it can be downloaded to a portable ground terminal (rather than a one with a big high-bandwidth dish). Within ten minutes of the TacSat passing overhead, laptop-sized ROVER ground terminals can be marking points of interest on a map for combat troops nearby.

Posted on June 24, 2010 at 1:21 PMView Comments

The U.S. Civil Rights Movement as an Insurgency

This is interesting:

Most Americans fail to appreciate that the Civil Rights movement was about the overthrow of an entrenched political order in each of the Southern states, that the segregationists who controlled this order did not hesitate to employ violence (law enforcement, paramilitary, mob) to preserve it, and that for nearly a century the federal government tacitly or overtly supported the segregationist state governments. That the Civil Rights movement employed nonviolent tactics should fool us no more than it did the segregationists, who correctly saw themselves as being at war. Significant change was never going to occur within the political system: it had to be forced. The aim of the segregationists was to keep the federal government on the sidelines. The aim of the Civil Rights movement was to “capture” the federal government — to get it to apply its weight against the Southern states. As to why it matters: a major reason we were slow to grasp the emergence and extent of the insurgency in Iraq is that it didn’t — and doesn’t — look like a classic insurgency. In fact, the official Department of Defense definition of insurgency still reflects a Vietnam era understanding of the term. Looking at the Civil Rights movement as an insurgency is useful because it assists in thinking more comprehensively about the phenomenon of insurgency and assists in a more complete — and therefore more useful — definition of the term.

The link to his talk is broken, unfortunately.

EDITED TO ADD (12/15): Video here. Thanks, mcb.

Posted on December 15, 2009 at 7:57 AMView Comments

Monopoly Sets for WWII POWs: More Information

I already blogged about this; there’s more information in this new article:

Included in the items the German army allowed humanitarian groups to distribute in care packages to imprisoned soldiers, the game was too innocent to raise suspicion. But it was the ideal size for a top-secret escape kit that could help spring British POWs from German war camps.

The British secret service conspired with the U.K. manufacturer to stuff a compass, small metal tools, such as files, and, most importantly, a map, into cut-out compartments in the Monopoly board itself.

Posted on September 23, 2009 at 1:43 PMView Comments

Terrorist Havens

Good essay on “terrorist havens” — like Afghanistan — and why they’re not as big a worry as some maintain:

Rationales for maintaining the counterinsurgency in Afghanistan are varied and complex, but they all center on one key tenet: that Afghanistan must not be allowed to again become a haven for terrorist groups, especially al-Qaeda.

[…]

The debate has largely overlooked a more basic question: How important to terrorist groups is any physical haven? More to the point: How much does a haven affect the danger of terrorist attacks against U.S. interests, especially the U.S. homeland? The answer to the second question is: not nearly as much as unstated assumptions underlying the current debate seem to suppose. When a group has a haven, it will use it for such purposes as basic training of recruits. But the operations most important to future terrorist attacks do not need such a home, and few recruits are required for even very deadly terrorism. Consider: The preparations most important to the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks took place not in training camps in Afghanistan but, rather, in apartments in Germany, hotel rooms in Spain and flight schools in the United States.

In the past couple of decades, international terrorist groups have thrived by exploiting globalization and information technology, which has lessened their dependence on physical havens.

By utilizing networks such as the Internet, terrorists’ organizations have become more network-like, not beholden to any one headquarters. A significant jihadist terrorist threat to the United States persists, but that does not mean it will consist of attacks instigated and commanded from a South Asian haven, or that it will require a haven at all. Al-Qaeda’s role in that threat is now less one of commander than of ideological lodestar, and for that role a haven is almost meaningless.

Posted on September 21, 2009 at 6:46 AMView Comments

David Kilcullen on Security and Insurgency

Very interesting hour-long interview.

Australian-born David Kilcullen was the senior advisor to US General David Petraeus during his time in Iraq, advising on counterinsurgency. The implementation of his strategies are now regarded as a major turning point in the war.

Here, in a fascinating discussion with human rights lawyer Julian Burnside at the Melbourne Writers’ Festival, he talks about the ethics and tactics of contemporary warfare.

Posted on September 7, 2009 at 7:33 AMView Comments

Yet Another New York Times Cyberwar Article

It’s the season, I guess:

The United States has no clear military policy about how the nation might respond to a cyberattack on its communications, financial or power networks, a panel of scientists and policy advisers warned Wednesday, and the country needs to clarify both its offensive capabilities and how it would respond to such attacks.

The report, based on a three-year study by a panel assembled by the National Academy of Sciences, is the first major effort to look at the military use of computer technologies as weapons. The potential use of such technologies offensively has been widely discussed in recent years, and disruptions of communications systems and Web sites have become a standard occurrence in both political and military conflicts since 2000.

Here’s the report summary, which I have not read yet.

I was particularly disturbed by the last paragraph of the newspaper article:

Introducing the possibility of a nuclear response to a catastrophic cyberattack would be expected to serve the same purpose.

Nuclear war is not a suitable response to a cyberattack.

Posted on May 1, 2009 at 10:46 AMView Comments

Sidebar photo of Bruce Schneier by Joe MacInnis.