EMP Cybergeddon


Electromagnetic Pulses (EMPs) are the weapons of choice against electronics of all sorts, including cyber.

The Economist (15 October 2011) in an article called Frying Tonight describes how “warfare is changing as weapons that destroy electronics, not people, are deployed on the field of battle.”

Here a brief summary:

During the Cold War, the notion was to explode an atom bomb high in the atmosphere (i.e. a High-Altitude EMP or HEMP) “to burn out an enemies electrical grid, telephone network, and possibly even the wiring of his motor vehicles.

Today, that principle is being applied in smaller weapons using microwaves—from powerful batteries or reactive chemicals that generate high-energy radio frequencies.

By zapping electronics, EMPs can take down enemy missiles, destroy command, control, and communications capability, and stop in their tracks everything from enemy tanks to planes and speed boats. 

EMP weapons are already being deployed: 

Fighter planes are being developed with EMP capabilities using the active electronically scanned array (AESA) as defensive weapons against air-to-air and surface-to-air missiles, while other planes (like the “Growler”) are being outfitted with offensive EMP capabilities.

Ships too are being armed with EMP guns to defend against high-speed boat “swarms” or to defend against pirates.

Land vehicles will be armed with EMP cannons such as the Radio-Frequency Vehicle Stopper that can stall enemy vehicles’ engines or the Active Denial System used as a heat-ray to disperse crowds.

At the same time, defenses against EMPs are being deployed, such as Faradays cages–which are enclosures of conducting material often in a mesh pattern that protects electrical equipment from getting fried.

What is important to note though is that EMPs are not just battlefield weapons–they can take out our everyday electrical and cyber systems.

A Congressional Research Service (CRS) Report to Congress (21 July 2008) called High Altitude Electromagnetic Pulse (HEMP) and High Power Microwave (HPM) Devices: Threat Assessments states “Several nations, including sponsors of terrorism, may currently have a capability to use EMP as a weapon for cyber warfare or cyber terrorism to disrupt communications and other parts of the U.S. critical infrastructure.”

The EMP Commission reported that EMP “creates the possibility of long-term, catastrophic consequences for national security.

One of the major concerns is the “cascading effects” that a loss of electrical infrastructure would cause in terms of people being unable to obtain basic life necessities and thereby resulting in that “many people may ultimately die.”

The report finds EMP weapons to be an “attractive asymmetric option” for our adversaries, and that analysts find that “it could possibly take years for the United States to recover fully from the resulting widespread damage.”

Therefore, it is critical that we increase our cyber security capabilities not only in terms of fighting conventional malware attacks from within the cyber realm, but we must be thinking in ernest about energy weapons directed at us from without.

We must continue to harden our defenses, invest in new technologies and countermeasures to thwart the enemy, develop punishing offensive capabilities, as well as prepare for the possibility of a strike against our homeland.  

Although called “human-safe” (and aside from the traditional weapons of mass destruction), EMPs may be actually one of the most devastating weapons of all to a society dependent of technology.

(Source Photo: here)

>Microwave Energy Weapons and Enterprise Architecture

>There’s a new way to stop by the bad guys—with microwave energy!

The problem is that no sooner do we develop the improved technology, then we are already telling the bad guys how to foil it. That’s incredibly self-defeating and stupid!

That’s also the epitome of poor enterprise architecture:

  • good User-centric EA ensures that business drives technology and technology meets user requirements—in this case, the requirement is to be able to stop the bad guys; however, we already know how the bad guys can circumvent the technology and are telling them how— that’s not meeting user requirements, and that’s poor EA!

In this example, MIT Technology Review, 13 November 2007 is reporting that a company called Eureka Aerospace has developed a new “more efficient and compact” electromagnetic system that can send out “a beam of microwave energy [that] could stop vehicles in their tracks.”

“Pulses of microwave radiation disable the microprocessors that control the engine functions in a car. Such a device could be used by law enforcement to stop fleeing and noncooperative vehicles at security checkpoints, or as a perimeter protection for military bases, communication centers” and other critical infrastructure.

Sound good, and the technology is ready for deployment in 18 months. Here’s the catch—the article tells us (and the world) how the state-of-the-art technology is foiled:

  • Metal shielding—“metal acts as a shield against microwave energy.”
  • Older vehicles—“electronic control modules were not built into most cars until 1972, hence the system will not work on automobiles made before that year.”

Some additional snafu’s from the architects who designed this:

  • Collateral damage— nearby electronics will also be taken out; “so if the officer is pointing the device in the direction of the mall, he or she could end up trapping 12 people in an elevator.” Also, it “could cause a huge accident if a car is disabled and a driver loses steering control.” Here’s some more: “radiation can burn human skin and microwaves have long been suspected of being a cancer-causing agent.

So here’s a neat technology that sounds good on paper, until we see (and tell the bad guys) how to defeat our latest gizmo that’s designed to protect our citizen’s and troops. Plus let’s not forget the collateral damage from this “non-lethal” weapon. Architects back to the drawing board, please.