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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: 4, Interesting) by fnj on Monday September 22 2014, @11:57AM

    by fnj (1654) on Monday September 22 2014, @11:57AM (#96700)

    Those seventh century knuckle draggers don't have the knowledge, aptitude and patience required to maintain those advanced weapons. They will all be junk before long. And the equipment is not magic anyway. An M1 tank is nothing more than a sitting duck target for a plane or helicopter with hellfire missiles. A single soldier with a hand-carried fire-and-forget Javelin can take care of an M1.

    Antiaircraft cannons; are you serious? What is this, WW2? To deal with aircraft nowadays takes guided missiles, ground stations and the know-how to use them. And early warning. And the enemy's tactics have to be accommodating. A clued-in enemy will take out the AA the minute it turns on its radars, using HARM missiles and the like.

    Helicopters: do they have even a single pilot worth spit?

    Humvees? Freakin' death traps.

    Also, they don't have the slightest idea how to use them effectively. Training and insight is what separates the men from the boys. The best Soviet/Russian stuff has always been very formidable on the ground and in the air. But American or Israeli forces cut through it like butter. Why? A hundred times the training and experience and tactics is why. The few times it has turned out otherwise (the air war in Vietnam, initial stages of the 1973 October War in the Middle East), it has been because the experts were overconfident and short on tactics.

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  • (Score: 2) by scruffybeard on Monday September 22 2014, @01:01PM

    by scruffybeard (533) on Monday September 22 2014, @01:01PM (#96727)

    Knuckle dragging comments aside, I agree with much of what you said. I don't know that this group has the knowledge and training to make effective use of many of these weapons. This often happens in war, I think kill switches would be a terrible idea though. If you can activate a kill switch against your enemy, then he will eventually be able to do the same. You are better off training the people guarding the munitions to destroy them as you retreat.

  • (Score: 3, Informative) by VLM on Monday September 22 2014, @01:20PM

    by VLM (445) Subscriber Badge on Monday September 22 2014, @01:20PM (#96735)

    "Humvees? Freakin' death traps."

    From personal experience with the GD things you need trained experienced mechanics and a strong logistics train, or you rapidly end up with something useless other than being towed on a flatbed truck at parades or something.

    I can't tell you how many times in the 90s I did monthly PMCS on the section humvee and a puddle of something formed underneath. Or it wouldn't start for no apparent reason. I'd say about twice a year I had "something" redlined. I do not think it unreasonable that you'd get an exponential curve where you lose a sixth of the machines per month, and compounded and with no maint at all and no log support in a combat theater its going to be worse. We'll be very charitable and say 1/4 losses per month compounded.

    There's a reason a little mechanized REMF supply company had an entire section of mechanics. Not to eat donuts all day stateside. They worked their butts off 24x7 when deployed. And that's with training and experience and world leading logistic support.

  • (Score: 3, Interesting) by GreatAuntAnesthesia on Monday September 22 2014, @01:20PM

    by GreatAuntAnesthesia (3275) on Monday September 22 2014, @01:20PM (#96736) Journal

    > those advanced weapons... will all be junk before long

    Probably right, but I wouldn't be so quick to dismiss them. Even uneducated people can be ingenious, and I imagine a force with ISIL's resources will almost certainly find some way of turning these acquisitions into assets. If they are smart they will sell the gear they can't use effectively[1] and use the cash to buy the things that they can - small arms, explosives, supplies, political influence...

    > Humvees? Freakin' death traps.

    I won't disagree. I wonder if they could ever be smart / lucky enough to use a captured military vehicle like a Humvee to approach a western military base more closely than they might otherwise get away with..? Close enough for a kamikaze run maybe? I'm sure there are approach procedures to reduce the chance of falling prey to this kind of attack but you know, people can get lazy and complacent, even in the military.

    [1] I'm sure they could find someone with the money to pay for it - remember the buyer doesn't have to have any more use for this gear than ISIL, they just have to be slightly less clever. The North Koreans would probably like to get their hands on some modern US hardware, although making contact and then transferring the goods might be challenging. Not to mention the ideological differences that would have to be overcome. Or there's always ebay...

  • (Score: 2) by opinionated_science on Monday September 22 2014, @01:36PM

    by opinionated_science (4031) on Monday September 22 2014, @01:36PM (#96745)

    I suspect that is why we are subject to the grisly images on the media. This group of psychopaths is trying to get as much attention as they can, until their cache of found arms stops being usable.

    This reminds me of an article I read about the new fighter jets being unflyable without the computer - modern systems require modern maintenance. Just ask the Romans...

  • (Score: 3, Informative) by tibman on Monday September 22 2014, @01:41PM

    by tibman (134) Subscriber Badge on Monday September 22 2014, @01:41PM (#96749)

    I've only seen one picture of a captured M1. It was rolled over onto it's side and pinned between two bridges (super bad driving). The tank was likely being used for escape by the Iraqi Army when someone rolled and pinned it. Anyways, the HMMWVs look really rough but the platform is excellent for insurgents. Not only is it a symbol of power (US HMMWVs brought a lot of death) but it is a lot of armor. No bullet will kill someone in the truck. Pretty short lived though because after the trucks are all shot up i doubt they could be repaired. Effective for taking other Iraqi towns anyways. Doesn't take much training to drive an automatic truck with 33 inch wheels down the road. It's a Private's job in the US Army. A Private has had probably 4 months of training and 2 of those months was mostly toughening up and strength building.

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  • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday September 23 2014, @12:04AM

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday September 23 2014, @12:04AM (#96968)

    Those seventh century knuckle draggers don't have the knowledge, aptitude and patience required to maintain those advanced weapons. They will all be junk before long. And the equipment is not magic anyway. An M1 tank is nothing more than a sitting duck target for a plane or helicopter with hellfire missiles. A single soldier with a hand-carried fire-and-forget Javelin can take care of an M1.

    Am I right in assuming that any US military hardware spotted on the move right now in Iraq is not one of ours and, thus, under the control of ISIS? So why not just blow this military hardware to hell on sight? Do our own pilots not have the ability to spot an M1 tank or a humvee rolling down the open road in northern Iraq or Syria? Does anyone know the answer to this?