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posted by LaminatorX on Monday September 22 2014, @07:11AM   Printer-friendly
from the not-like-triggers dept.

From AnonTechie:

This summer the insurgent group ISIL captured the Iraqi city of Mosul—and along with it, three army divisions’ worth of U.S.-supplied equipment from the Iraqi army, including Humvees, helicopters, antiaircraft cannons and M1 Abrams tanks. ISIL staged a parade with its new weapons and then deployed them to capture the strategic Mosul Dam from outgunned Kurdish defenders. The U.S. began conducting air strikes and rearming the Kurds to even the score against its own weaponry. As a result, even more weapons have been added to the conflict, and local arms bazaars have reportedly seen an influx of supply.

It is past time that we consider whether we should build in a way to remotely disable such dangerous tools in an emergency. Other technologies, including smartphones, already incorporate this kind of capability. The theft of iPhones plummeted this year after Apple introduced a remote “kill switch,” which a phone’s owner can use to make sure no one else can use his or her lost or stolen phone. If this feature is worth putting in consumer devices, why not embed it in devices that can be so devastatingly repurposed—including against their rightful owners, as at the Mosul Dam?

And from Hugh Pickens:

Jonathan Zittrain writes in Scientific American that when ISIL captured the Iraqi city of Mosul this summer, it also captured three army divisions’ worth of U.S.-supplied equipment from the Iraqi army, including Humvees, helicopters, antiaircraft cannons and M1 Abrams tanks. Zittrain says that it is past time that we consider building in a way to remotely disable such dangerous tools in an emergency. "Other technologies, including smartphones, already incorporate this kind of capability," says Zittrain. "The theft of iPhones plummeted this year after Apple introduced a remote “kill switch,” which a phone’s owner can use to make sure no one else can use his or her lost or stolen phone. If this feature is worth putting in consumer devices, why not embed it in devices that can be so devastatingly repurposed—including against their rightful owners, as at the Mosul Dam?"

At least one foreign policy analyst has suggested incorporating GPS limitations into Stinger surface-to-air missiles to assist the Free Syrian Army in its defenses against air attack while ensuring that the missiles are useless outside that theater of conflict. More simply, any device with onboard electronics, such as a Stinger or a modern tank, could have a timed expiration; the device could operate after the expiration date only if it receives a coded “renew” signal from any of a number of overhead satellites. The renewal would take effect as a matter of course—unless, say, the weapons were stolen. This fail-safe mechanism could be built using basic and well-tested digital signature-and-authentication technologies. One example is the permissive action link devices by which American nuclear weapons are secured so that they can be activated only when specific codes are shared. Another involves the protocols by which military drones are operated remotely and yet increasingly safeguarded against digital hijacking.

Today, however, we are making a conscious choice to create and share medium and heavy weaponry while not restricting its use. This choice has very real impacts. If they can save even one innocent life at the end of a deactivated U.S. barrel, including the lives of our own soldiers, kill switches are worth a serious look.

What do you think? Should there be a kill switch or an activation switch? [Related]: http://spectrum.ieee.org/semiconductors/design/the-hunt-for-the-kill-switch

 
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  • (Score: 3, Insightful) by q.kontinuum on Monday September 22 2014, @08:38AM

    by q.kontinuum (532) on Monday September 22 2014, @08:38AM (#96654) Journal

    I'm curious how this would work out in the long run. How would any country still purchase weapons from US if they have to expect US to disable them as soon as the allegiences change and an inconvenient neighbour it more friendly with US?

    How will security be implemented? I accept that in theory a safe cryptographic implementation would be feasible, but given that there were already rumours of US drones being abducted/hacked by foreign forces, how safe would you feel knowing that your whole defensive system could be disabled by an opponent holding the right codes?

    And what are the implications for other technologies used in critical infrastructure? Do we expect e.g. Korean or Chinese switches and routers to have kill-switches already? Could they disable large parts of our infrastructure without firing a single shot? Or for me as a non-American probably more interesting: Given past NSA activities, do Cisco-devices etc. have such booby-traps already?

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  • (Score: 3, Insightful) by frojack on Monday September 22 2014, @05:51PM

    by frojack (1554) Subscriber Badge on Monday September 22 2014, @05:51PM (#96858) Journal

    I'm curious how this would work out in the long run. How would any country still purchase weapons from US if they have to expect US to disable them as soon as the allegiences change and an inconvenient neighbour it more friendly with US?

    Purchase?
    The Iraqi army was GIVEN these weapons.
    For most of them, the cost of transporting them home exceeded their value.

    Its pretty hard to have a kill switch in a Humvee, because they are designed to be simple.

    Tanks on the other hand, are not so simple. Its doubtful even the Iraqi army was proficient with these tanks, and it seems unlikely some random jihadist would figure out the complexities of the fire control and tracking systems. But they can fire the machine guns and drive them around and look scary to unarmed villagers.

    The kill switch for these weapon systems located in the cockpit of FA-18s.

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  • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Monday September 22 2014, @08:29PM

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday September 22 2014, @08:29PM (#96916)

    "do Cisco-devices etc. have such booby-traps already?"

    Don't know if "booby-trap" is the correct term, but they do add their secret ingredient(s).
    http://www.spiegel.de/international/world/the-nsa-uses-powerful-toolbox-in-effort-to-spy-on-global-networks-a-940969-3.html [spiegel.de]