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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 Runaway1956 on Monday September 22 2014, @10:10AM

    by Runaway1956 (2926) Subscriber Badge on Monday September 22 2014, @10:10AM (#96677) Homepage Journal

    That was my first thought, the first time I read of the idea. Computers are hackable, given time and opportunity. Those weapons still have explosive, propellant, projectiles, and guidance systems onboard. Beat the computer, and you have a usable weapon again. The thing is, the weapon only need be hacked ONCE. The enemy figures out how to reactivate just one missile or other weapon, and the same methods will work for all weapons of the same type and design. Depending on the sophistication (or lack thereof) put into the kill scheme, the same hack may very well work on multiple types, designs, and classes of weapons.

    They're asking for a system that deactivates the weapon unless a reauthorization is sent? Whoop-ti-do - we just set up a spoofed authorization signal!! Knowing the army, they'll probably use the same broadcast for ALL of their weapons within a theater!!

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  • (Score: 2) by iwoloschin on Monday September 22 2014, @11:03AM

    by iwoloschin (3863) on Monday September 22 2014, @11:03AM (#96686)

    What if you just use high level disk encryption? If the tank turns off, you need the password to turn it back on. If you don't know the password, the computer would be useless to you. Kind of like I can do with my Android phone, just on a bigger scale.

    Sure, you'll still have a bunch of shells that you could...roll at someone? Or maybe stuff an oil soaked rag down the fuel tank and light that up? Or just start ripping the tank apart for scrap, it'd probably be more useful for you there.

    • (Score: 3, Insightful) by Runaway1956 on Monday September 22 2014, @12:59PM

      by Runaway1956 (2926) Subscriber Badge on Monday September 22 2014, @12:59PM (#96720) Homepage Journal

      Steal an unencrypted disk image from somewhere. Or, just buy one from the Chinese. Reimage the disk, and you've got a working weapons system again. No problem!!

      Yeah, I realize the military is going to protect those disk images with maximum effort. Just like they protected a lot of other data that was leaked by Manning and Snowden.

      --
      👌 Play stupid games, win stupid prizes. - Kenosha Jury
      • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Saturday September 27 2014, @09:50AM

        by Anonymous Coward on Saturday September 27 2014, @09:50AM (#98855)

        America builds its own weapons. The Chinese may have been able to steal copies of the disk images for the weapons, but if they had would they sell them to some random terrorist group?

    • (Score: 4, Interesting) by VLM on Monday September 22 2014, @01:12PM

      by VLM (445) Subscriber Badge on Monday September 22 2014, @01:12PM (#96732)

      Imagine the surprise attack you can field.... "we shut down their gun aiming computers, so no worries of tanks". "Whoops they vaporized our division by hiding and not opening fire until boresight range at 200 meters or whatever". "We shut down the anti-tank missiles so no worries boys" "Whoops they killed a whole division by using then as IEDs instead of missiles"

      With a kill switch being an inherently well supplied / offensive weapon rather than improvised / defensive weapon, I'd expect it to mostly be used against paramilitary cops (which seems to be all of them) and invasion pacification forces, in other words it'll kill a lot more of "our guys" than their guys.

      Another rather obvious problem is key management. If you think this will be handled intelligently and efficiently, you've never worked with or for a bureaucracy. I can personally assure you from experience that the .mil can barely handle armory security and commo security and that's just human hands manipulating small numbers into locks. So this plan is doomed when its actually implemented.

      Just because it'll kill americans is no reason for military procurement crooks to avoid it. Sometimes they like that kind of thing, as long as they make a bigger profit. The TLDR of the whole article is some members of known criminal corrupt organizations supporting this idea, does not necessarily prove its a good idea. Unless you're on the side of the guys who are not selling this kind of stuff (astroturfers from .ru?)

  • (Score: 3, Insightful) by jcross on Monday September 22 2014, @01:42PM

    by jcross (4009) on Monday September 22 2014, @01:42PM (#96750)

    I was kind of thinking it might get hacked to disable it. It could be as simple as jamming the channel it listens for the satellite authorization on until it gives up and shuts down. And imagine how many resources would be directed at screwing with the kill switches in a war with, say, the Chinese. I very much doubt the military's going to get behind a technology that could brick all of their weapons in the middle of a battle.

  • (Score: 2, Interesting) by Arik on Monday September 22 2014, @02:27PM

    by Arik (4543) on Monday September 22 2014, @02:27PM (#96775) Journal
    It'll cut both ways. Someone will hack it so that it can be captured and used still, and probably the very same someone will also figure out how to disable it momentarily right before they attack as well.
    --
    If laughter is the best medicine, who are the best doctors?