We’re Dead And We Don’t Even Know It

We're Dead And We Don't Even Know It

We all know the frightening threat of intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) heading over the ice caps–from Russia, China, and even North Korea someday) and landing in our “backyards” destroying life as we know it.

But what The Washington Beacon reports about the arms race to new ultra-high speed missiles means we are probably dead already and don’t even know it.

These new missiles being developed by China, Russia, India, and the U.S. are designed to be so fast, so small, go so low (“ground-hugging), and be so maneuverable with precision guided systems that they may completely evade all our missile defenses (long-range interceptors, medium-range sea and land-based interceptors, and short-range, near target interceptors).

China tested one of these on Jan. 9–it would sit atop an ICBM and “then glide and maneuver at speeds of up to 10 times the speed of sound from near space en route to its target.”

It “takes off towards its target from near space, or less than 62 miles from earth.”

Traveling at Mach 10 or 7,680 miles per hour, the warhead would hit accordingly to my calculation in under 30 seconds!

These hypersonic weapons can be loaded on the last stages of ICBMS, submarine missiles, aboard strategic bombers, on cruise missiles, and even on surveillance drones.

This is the “hypersonic arms race” and the winner has asymmetric warfare advantage and can take out their opponent before the other guy even knows what hit them.

The good news is that the U.S. is testing the Lockheed HTV-2, Hypersonic Technology Vehicle, capable of Mach 20 (13,000 mph), and within the next 10-15 years we expect “rapid kill” to be able to “attack any location on earth within an hour.”

Note: the diameter of the earth is only 7,926 miles so if we can achieve Mach 20, it will actually only take us about 36 minutes!

So conventional missile defense is a bust, which leaves kinetic weapons and lasers (high-speed hit-to-kill capabilities) as our last defensive hope, as Ian Easton of the Project 2049 Institute said, “If there is a great power war in this century, it will not begin with the sound of explosions on the ground and in the sky, but rather with the bursting of kinetic energy and the flashing of laser light in the silence of outer space.”

What follows though is anything that gets through these defenses rings will destroy everything down here before you would even have enough time to read this post.

In a sense, we’re all dead already, and this is a very small foreshadowing testament.

(Source Photo: here with attribution to Jonathan McIntosh)

Care To Be Curious?

Care To Be Curious?

Here’s three topics for the curious of mind today:

Are we technologically safer? As we attempt to beef up IT security, we continue to be technologically insecure. Just this last week, BBC reported how a fridge was part of 100,000 devices used to send out 750,000 pieces of spam. Yes, a fridge, and there was also a television involved–sounds like the beginning of a bad joke, right? But this is our reality these days…Proofpoint, a cloud computing and security company said “Many of these devices are poorly protected at best, and consumers have virtually no way to detect or fix infections when they do occur.”

Is our economy healing or hurting? As unemployment fell from 7% to 6.7% last week–an impressive reduction–the overall labor force participation rate didn’t rise, but rather sank to 62.8%–its lowest level in 35 years! And while, the Wall Street Journal explains that U.S. employment is simply not keeping up with population growth, the S&P 500 hit a new record high just last Wednesday. Meanwhile, the Fed continues to pour money into the economy, although at a slowing rate (expected to go down next week to only $65B a month), speculation is building whether we have another real bubble brewing, and this one of our own making, perhaps.

Is this the lead up to peace or war with Iran? As we continue to seek a long-term deal with Iran on their dangerous nuclear weapons foray, we read from Bret Stephens that Iranian President Rouhani said during his presidential campaign, “Saying ‘Death to America” is easy…We need to express ‘Death to America’ with action.” If we are getting a good deal that can truly lead to WMD disarmament of Iran, why did Rouhani tweet, “In #Geneva agreement world powers surrendered to Iranian nation’s will.” Curious, whether this is for political consumption in Iran or whether he sees the deal as just a stalling tactic leading to a breakout capability in nuclear weapons as well as a way to get some goodies in terms of sanctions relief for his country in the meantime.

What does little kitty cat say about these? 😉

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

With The Courage Of The Maccabees

This is a phenomenal speech by Israel’s Prime Minister Netanyahu to the United Nations on October 1 2013.

Some highlights from the speech:

– Iran is building underground uranium and plutonium enrichment facilities, using advanced centrifuges, conducting enrichments to near dangerous levels, and developing the ICBMs to deliver the nuclear weapons.

– Iran threatens to wipe Israel off the map and chants death to Israel and America.

– Iran is smiling and negotiating, while positioning themselves for a dash over the nuclear finish line.

– Iran is seeking to provide meaningless concessions and empty promises in return for sanctions relief.

– Nuclear weapons in the hands of the rogue regime of Iran makes nuclear terrorism a clear and present danger.

– Israel will never acquiesce to nuclear weapons in the hands of a rogue regime that threatens to wipe them off the map.

– If Israel is forced to act alone, it will and in so doing be safeguarding many other nations as well.

– A bludgeoned Jewish people left for dead [after the Holocaust] will defend themselves with the courage of the Maccabees and not compromise on security.

If you get a chance, it is worth watching the whole thing.

A Dangerous Game of WMD

A Dangerous Game of WMD

According to ArmsControl.org–in 1994, we reached a historic “agreed framework” with North Korea to “freeze operation and construction of nuclear reactors suspected of being part of a covert nuclear weapons program.”

In return, the U.S. would phase out economic sanctions, North Korea would be supplied with 500,000 tons of fuel oil annually, and South Korea would build two lightweight reactors for them.

Fast forward just a decade–By 2005, North Korea declares that it has indeed manufactured nuclear weapons, which are then on display for the world in a nuclear test in 2006.

Today in the Washington Post, we herald another historic deal, this one with Iran that “freezes key parts of their nuclear program.”

In return, Iran gets relief from economic sanctions.

Yet, even now as we celebrate this historic agreement, the Iranian President is not dismantling but rather demanding the right to keep their atomic program.

Moreover, just last week, according to USA Today, Iran’s Supreme Leader Khamenei called Israel a “rabid dog” amid chants of “Death to America!”

Online, The Diplomat confidently says this time is different, “Iran is not North Korea,” because “Iran is cosmopolitan” and “prides itself on international engagement.”

Yet, according to PBS, The Islamic Republic of Iran is far from both of these with a “Supreme Leader who exerts ideological and political control over a system dominated by clerics who shadow every major function of the state.”

And Amnesty International writes that Iran has a history of “widening crackdown on dissent that has left journalists, students, political and rights activists, as well as clerics languishing in prisons.”

Lest we forget, that Iran is the country that held 52 Americans hostage for 444 days, threatened to annihilate Israel, denied the Holocaust, asserted that the U.S. itself was behind 9/11, and is the “most active state sponsor of terrorism” in the world.

Oh, how very cosmopolitan!

While we all would hope and pray for a sincere and lasting peace with Iran, this agreement seems to spell a deja vu world of scary WMD cat and mouse, all over again.

(Source Photo: here)

The Iranian Gambit

The Iranian Gambit

Important developments going on with Iranian Nuclear Crisis…

According to the Jerusalem Post, Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu is asking for a deal that dismantles Iran’s ability to prepare fissile material, the core of a nuclear bomb–which Iran has threatened to use to annihilate the State of Israel.

This is in stark contrast to a mere suspension of enrichment activity or reduction of stockpiles that still leaves this dangerous nuclear capability in the hands of the radical Islamic Republic.

After coming out of the Holocaust Museum, Yad Vashem, in Jerusalem with French President Hollande, Netanyahu said to Hollande:

“You said when you came out that the experience of the Holocaust places a very special responsibility on all of us. Francios, I want to tell you the burden it places on me. It is my duty to prevent anyone who credibly threatens to execute another Holocaust against the Jewish people. That is my obligation, but our common obligation for mankind and for our common future.”

Further, Prime Minister Netanyahu stated:

“We live here. We know something about this region. We know a great deal about Iran and its plans. Its worthwhile to pay attention to what we say.”

Less than 70 year after the Holocaust of six million Jews at the sadistic hands of the Nazi murders, there is no room for error with the Mullahs in Iran.

It seems like we are coming to a conclusion on this soon, as the Jewish people have learned it is better to live by taking your best shot, than die by going like sheep to the slaughter.

(Source Photo: here with attribution to marsmet546)

Remembering the 52 And Hoping For A Real Peace

Remembering the 52 And Hoping For A Real Peace

This week was the 34-year anniversary since the Iran Hostage Crisis (which started on November 4, 1979)

52 Americans were held hostage for a long 444 days.

Now, Iran is negotiating for a relaxation of sanctions imposed due to their hostile nuclear WMD program.

However, there are questions about whether Iran will really give up the nukes  that they have pursued for decades or whether this is another stalling tactic.

The Wall Street Journal is reporting concern by Western Allies including Israel, Saudi Arabia, the UAE, and Bahrain, and that “Republican and Democratic supporters of Israel said the agreement in the works was far too easy on Iran.”

On the positive side, potentially, this is only the “first stage” in the Iran nuclear disarmament process–let’s hope.

We need to ensure a substantive nuclear non-proliferation deal that safeguards America’s and allies’ security and interests in the region.

We can all rest easier when the Iranian nuclear capability is fully dismantled, until then this is not a slam dunk for peace.

(Source Photos: EVResourceSite and Pere Ubu; Mashup by Andy Blumenthal)

Target >>> WMD

At this time, there is a massive debate as well as much confusion going on over what to do about Syria’s alleged use of chemical weapons, and their brutal civil war against a mixed element of fighters (some moderates and many other dangerous fundamentalists).

On one hand, people are saying they don’t want to get involved in yet another conflict (after 10 years with Iraq and Afghanistan) and this is most understandable.

On the other hand, we are talking about extremely dangerous regimes like Iran and Syria that are pursuing, prepared to use, or have used weapons of mass destruction.

Taking out Syria’s extensive chemical weapons facilities are good targets to prevent further use against their own people, their neighbors, or us, except that we have to be careful not to end up helping our arch enemy, Al Qaeda, who is fighting to establish a foothold there, in the process.

Many are saying that this attack on Syria would really be a warning or even a precursor to destroying the proliferating Iranian nuclear sites–which are even better targets due to the regime’s terrorist underpinnings and genocidal ambitions.

As long as Iran and Syria are able to pursue these WMD programs, how can we really be safe?

The red line is genocide, and Iran and Syria are there–one in explicit horrific threats of nuclear holocaust and the other in dastardly deeds with chemical weapons or otherwise brutal slaughter of civilians.

This is a very complicated world situation, and we really don’t know the true motivations of any player, but the stakes are so high with WMD–there is no room for error.

(Source Graphic: Andy Blumenthal with attribution to James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies and 1155/New Scientist Global Security)

Like Buying A Nuke On The Black Market

Like Buying A Nuke On The Black Market

Buying a serious computer vulnerability is now like acquiring a nuke on the black market.

Nations and terrorists will pay to find the fatal flaw in computer programs that will enable them to perpetrate everything from subversive cyber spying to potentially massively destructive cyber attacks.

As the world is focused on nuclear non-proliferation, computer weapons are the new nukes–able to do everything from a targeted strike on an organization or agency to taking out vast swaths of our nation’s critical infrastructure.

According to the New York Times (13 July 2013), there is a great interest in buying “zero-day exploits”–one where governments or hackers can strike using a computer vulnerability before anyone even knows about it and can correct it.

The average zero-day exploit persists for “312 days–before it is detected”–giving amble time for attackers to cash-in!

Brokers are now working to market the computer flaws for a 15% cut, with some even “collecting royalty fees for every month their flaw is not discovered.”

The average flaw “now sells for around $35,000 to $160,000” and some companies that are selling these are even charging an annual $100,000 subscription fee to shop their catalog of computer vulnerabilities in addition to the cost for each one that varies with it’s sophistication and the pervasiveness of the operating system behind the exploit.

While governments and terrorists are on the prowl to buy the exploits for offensive purposes, technology companies are competing to purchase them and are offering “bug bounties” in order to identify the flaws and fix them before they are exploited.

We’ve come a long way from people and organizations buying software with their regular upgrades and patches to nations and hackers buying the knowledge of the flaws–not to patch–but to spy or harm their adversaries.

You can buy the bomb shelter or software patch, but someone else is buying the next more lethal bomb or vulnerability–the question is who will pay more to get the next exploit and when and how will they use it.

(Graphic by Andy Blumenthal adapted from here with attribution for the mushroom cloud photo to Andy Z.)

Emergency Alert Or R U Kidding?

Emergency Alert Or R U Kidding?

BBC News Technology (9 July 2013) reports on how the U.S. Emergency Alert System (EAS) was hacked.

The EAS is a program of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and was set up “to allow the president to talk to the entire country within 10 minutes of a disaster.” It also provides the public with alerts on local weather emergencies, such as tornados and flash floods.

EAS replaced the Emergency Broadcast System (EBS) in 1997 and with it came security weaknesses.

Earlier this year, those vulnerabilities were tested and exploited when the Montana Television Network was hacked with an alert of a zombie attack.

And it provided advice on how to survive–“Do not approach or apprehend these bodies as they are considered extremely dangerous.”

This is reminiscent of the hoax in 1938 when over the radio came a warning that a meteorite had smashed into New Jersey and aliens were attacking New York–an adaptation of H.G. Wells “War of the Worlds.”

Well yesterday it was aliens, today it’s zombies, and tomorrow it could be an phony announcement of an invasion by country XYZ or perhaps a imminent detonation of a thermonuclear warhead somewhere over the continental U.S.

Imagine the panic, confusion, and potential loss of life and property from the ensuing chaos.

It goes without saying that this is not a way to inspire confidence by the citizens in case of a true national emergency.

If we cannot count on the systems meant to survive an emergency then how can we be expected to survive the emergency itself?

The EAS may interrupt your regularly scheduled programming with those loud and annoying tests, but what can really ruin you day is a cyber attack on the system that broadcasts something much nastier and more ominous–and you don’t really know whether it’s the real thing or just another hack. 😉

(Source Photo: here with attribution to UWW ResNet)

Blackout Nation

Blackout Nation

We are reaching an exciting but dangerous phase of technology adoption where our dependence is virtually complete.

From mobile to social computing, from telecommunications to transportation, from industrial systems to electronic health records, from banking to eCommerce, from homeland security to national defense–we are dependent on technology.

But while technology proliferates everywhere, so do the risks.

Bloomberg BusinessWeek (16 May 2003) in an article called “The City That Runs On Sensors” talks about how initiatives like IBM’s smart-cities is bringing sensors and technology to everything running our towns–“Smart [city] innovation is improving our economic fabric and the quality of our life.”

The flip side is an editorial in today’s Wall Street Journal by former CIA director James Woolsey and Peter Pry who served on the congressional EMP commission warning how “A single nuke exploded above America could cause a national blackout for months” or years (stated later in article)

They write that “detonating a nuclear weapon high above any part of the U.S. mainland would generate a catastrophic electromagnetic pulse” (EMP)–and that this “would collapse the electric grid and other infrastructure that depends on it.”

This would be a national blackout of epic proportions that would impact all areas for 21st century sustainment of 311 million lives. Think for yourself–what would you be able to do and not do without the computers and telecommunications that you use every day?

Woolsey and Pry call for a preemptive surgical strike, for example, to prevent North Korean development of an ICMB capable of inflicting a nuclear EMP strike, but you can imagine other nations that pose a similar threat.

While be beef up our Cyber Corps and attempt to strengthen our tools, methods, and configurations, this is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to securing cyberspace.

Cybersecurity is more than just protecting us from malware infiltration and exfiltration–because the whole IT system that our society is built on can be wiped out not by cyber attack alone, but rather by collapsing the very electronic infrastructure that we rely on with a pulse of electromagnetic radiation that will fry the very circuits that run our devices.

While we build firewalls and put up intrusion detection and prevention guards and establish a court system of antivirus and spamware to put away violators and so on, how shall we prepare for a pulse attack that can incapacitate the electronics underpinnings–security and all?

“Star Wars” missile defense, preemptive action, and hardening of critical infrastructure are all security options–it costs money to keep the IT lights on, but better to pay now, then pay catastrophically bigger later. 😉

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)