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
(Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Monday September 22 2014, @08:50AM
i wouldn't be surprised if china has built in kill switches in all the US military hardware and software it's involved in the manufacture of
(Score: 1, Insightful) by anubi on Monday September 22 2014, @09:33AM
I would not be surprised if there aren't remote kill switches in darned nearly every internet-enabled thingie out there, whether it be music players, appliances, access points, whatever.
Of course, they will say its for enforcement of monthly payments.
But that's not the only reason they ( as well as the foreign contractor who designed it for them ) may shut it down.
Why do you think Congress was lobbied so hard to pass the digital millenium copyright act?
Based on what I have seen so far, designed-in infrastructure remote control is just another chink in the armor, designed to purposefully fail whenever someone else wants it to.
The perps just wait at their switchboards until time to awake their little sleeper cells. Just like a submarine patentholder waits for someone to spend the money to develop some device he has already patented but hasn't the resources to construct himself.
Ignorance of how our stuff works, which results in cascade failures of our infrastructure at the whim of some third party, is just another unintended consequence of law voted in by a Congress who themselves are ignorant of the problems which result from the deployment of technologies whose intent can not verified by knowledgeable customers.
By law, Congress has legalized placing booby-traps in all our technology infrastructure, and made it illegal to uncover them. The perps can now rest easy, knowing that people are not allowed by law to inspect the goods innards, until they are ready to release their little trojan surprise.
This paradigm requires two things - it requires someone who wants to keep anyone from seeing what they are doing, and it requires a Congress gullible enough to pass the law they want.
"Prove all things; hold fast that which is good." [KJV: I Thessalonians 5:21]