Skip to content

July 11 2015

July 13, 2015

11 July 2015


Blog URL



Farmers eager for drones, but most can’t legally fly them

by Press • 5 July 2015



Mike Geske wants a drone.

Watching a flying demonstration on Maryland’s Eastern Shore, the Missouri farmer envisions using an unmanned aerial vehicle to monitor the irrigation pipes on his farm — a job he now pays three men to do.

“The savings on labor and fuel would just be phenomenal,” Geske says, watching as a small white drone hovers over a nearby corn field and transmits detailed pictures of the growing stalks to an iPad.

Nearby, farmer Chip Bowling tries his hand at flying one of the drones. Bowling, president of the National Corn Growers Association, says he would like to buy one for his Maryland farm to help him scout out which individual fields need extra spraying.

Another farmer, Bobby Hutchison, says he is hoping the man he hires weekly to walk his fields and observe his crops gets a drone, to make the process more efficient and accurate.

“I see it very similar to how I saw the computer when it first started,” says Hutchison, 64. “It was a no-brainer.”

Farmers are eager for the technology.

The small, relatively inexpensive vehicles could replace humans in a variety of ways around large farms: transmitting detailed information about crops to combines and sprayers, directing them very precisely to problem spots and cutting down on the amount of water and chemicals that a farmer needs to use in those areas.

The Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International, a trade group, says agriculture could account for 80 percent of all commercial drone use.

Agricultural use of drones is about to take off after being grounded for years by the lack of federal guidelines. The Federal Aviation Administration has approved more than 50 exemptions for farm-related operations since January.

Companies with those exemptions say business has grown, helped by quick advances in the technology.

Bret Chilcott of Kansas-based AgEagle, which sells unmanned aerial vehicles and the software to help operate them, says his company took its first orders last year. Now it has a backlog of several hundred orders. He says the technology has transformed the market during that short period.

“Last year users had to land their aircraft and then take the data to the computer,” he says. “Now the data appears on your iPad or hand-held device a few minutes after flight.”

That data could be pictures, 3-D images of plants, thermal readings of crops or animals or other observations that a drone could make while in the air. Information that in the past took days to collect — or could not have been collected at all — can be gathered now in minutes or hours and, in some cases, integrated with separate data collected from other high-tech farm machinery.

Chilcott is optimistic that the technology to scout out problem spots so precisely will be transformative because farmers can limit spraying just to those places.

“In five years we won’t have to blanket a field with chemicals,” he says.

Still, most farmers cannot legally fly the vehicles yet.

The FAA is working on rules that would allow the drones to be used regularly for business while maintaining certain safety and privacy standards. An FAA proposal this year would allow flight of the vehicles as long as they weigh less than 55 pounds, stay within the operator’s sight and fly during the daytime, among other restrictions. Operators would have to pass an FAA test of aeronautical knowledge and a Transportation Security Administration background check.

Thomas Haun of North Carolina-based PrecisionHawk, another company with an exemption, says it is unclear what the business will look like eventually. Farmers may hire services that have unmanned aerial vehicles or every farm may get its own drone. Most likely, it will be a combination.

Haun says the proposed rules are appropriate. “It’s pretty spot on for where the technology is right now,” he says.

Some people have concerns about the guidelines. Pilots of crop dusters and other planes that operate around farms are concerned the rules do not go far enough to ensure safety.

“We can’t see them,” says Andrew Moore of the National Agricultural Aviation Association. His group advocated for the unmanned vehicles to include tracking systems or lights to help airplanes figure out where they are, but that was not included in the proposal.

The rules could pose some challenges for the eager farmers, too.

Geske may not be able to use drones efficiently to monitor all the irrigation pipes on his 2,100 acre Missouri farm if he has to keep them within sight. He’s still interested, though. The men he hires now use a lot of fuel and their trucks tear up his land and roads.

“You can wait forever on advancing technology,” Geske says.

Read more here:



The ‘new’ type of war that finally has the Pentagon’s attention

By Thomas Gibbons-Neff

July 3 


The Pentagon is increasingly concerned about how to combat “hybrid warfare,” the combination of stealth invasion, local proxy forces and international propaganda that Russia used to annex Crimea and destabilize eastern Ukraine, U.S. officials said.

Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, on Thursday released the 2015 National Military Strategy, in which he cited Russia’s actions in Ukraine and said “hybrid conflicts” will persist well into the future.

This kind of warfare transcends traditional notions of one military confronting another by incorporating conventional and unconventional forces, information warfare such as propaganda, as well as economic measures to undermine an enemy, according to Frank Hoffman, a professor at the National Defense University.

“The critique was, and still is, that America’s view of war is overly simplified,” he said. “We think of things in black-and-white terms.”

The issue animated Defense Secretary Ashton B. Carter’s recent trip to Europe.

“How do we confront cyberattacks, propaganda campaigns and hybrid warfare?” Carter asked during a speech in Berlin. “How do we ensure we can deal with more than one challenge at a time?”

The newly fashionable term is a relatively old concept; its essential elements had been part of Russia’s and China’s military doctrines long before the Kremlin sent its so-called “little green men” into Crimea, Hoffman said.

“This is something that we have to do better as the United States to identify and deal with,” Rep. Mac Thornberry (R-Tex.), chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, said in an interview. “This poses a challenge for us, and adversaries know that. They’re looking to run between the seams and confuse and delay us.”

Thornberry has included a provision in the 2016 National Defense Authorization Act calling on the Pentagon to develop a strategy to counter hybrid warfare.

“Hopefully, this provision in the bill helps Secretary Carter get more of the thinking and the intellectual heft of the department in helping us have a more effective response,” Thornberry said

Gen. Philip M. Breedlove, NATO’s top military commander and the commander of all U.S. forces in Europe, said that NATO and U.S. Special Operations forces had begun working with countries with substantial Russian minorities, such as Estonia and Latvia, to help them prepare for potential subversion from the east.

“We have groups of people, primarily in our special forces, that help work with nations to help understand those skills and those capabilities and capacities in their nations to address hybrid warfare,” Breedlove said.

The Kremlin on Thursday rejected accusations that it had acted aggressively in Ukraine or had any plans to undermine its neighbors. In a response to the strategy outlined by Dempsey, Dmitry ­Peskov, a spokesman for Russian President Vladi­mir Putin, said it indicated a “confrontational attitude, devoid of any objectivity towards our country.”

While in Europe, Carter announced that the United States would be contributing troops and “enabling capabilities” to NATO’s new Spearhead task force that would include surveillance aircraft and additional Special Operations forces. Carter added that, aside from rapid crisis response, the task force would be augmented to help counter cyberthreats and other dangers.

Hybrid warfare “is one of the dimensions of our adaptations and very important [for] countries surrounding Russia that don’t want to be susceptible to the kind of thing that happened in Crimea,” Carter told reporters.

But Hoffman said NATO is unable to confront hybrid warfare on its own.

“NATO is a military alliance, and the game is being played on a different field,” Hoffman said. ­”Either NATO works with the E.U. or with other people that has these kind of tools.”


Navy researcher patents ‘fiber optics without fiber’

Michael Peck, Contributing Writer 3:33 p.m. EDT July 2, 2015


A Navy researcher has been awarded a patent for what he describes as “fiber optics without the fiber” to transmit secure data.

Matthew Sheehan, a research engineer at Naval Surface Warfare Center, Port Hueneme Division (NSWC PHD), was given a first action allowance and patent award by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office for one-way data transmission from an open network to a closed network, said a Navy announcement.

The invention is a Light Information Transmitting Optical System, or LITOS, Sheehan said. It transmits data using visible light communication via free space optics.

“In other words, it’s like communicating over fiber optics without the fiber. This invention ensures the ability to get message traffic from point A to point B in a safe and reliable manner,” he said. “More specifically, the system allows communicating from the low or unclassified side … to the high or classified side.”

The technology preserves with the Navy calls an “air gap” isolating a network from other systems, while allowing communications. Because it is able to transmit data with light through the air, no actual connections are needed, Sheehan said.

“Think of a lighthouse as propagating light through the air,” he said. “My invention is the same principle, utilizing free space optics or light to transmit data from one location to another.”

Chris Monsey, an attorney who assisted Sheehan in the patent process, said the first action allowance shows ” this patent is worthy of particular attention both for tech transfer but, more importantly, for the Navy as it shows that the capability this system can provide represents state-of-the-art for this cybersecurity capability.”


Russian Craft Delivers Long-Awaited Cargo to Space Station

Associated Press | Jul 05, 2015


MOSCOW — An unmanned Russian cargo ship has docked successfully at the International Space Station, where it was anxiously awaited by the U.S.-Russian crew after the successive failures of two previous supply missions.

The Progress M-28M ship, which is carrying 2.5 metric tons of fuel, oxygen, water, food and other supplies, was launched into orbit on Friday from the Baikonur launch pad in Kazakhstan. Russian Mission Control said it docked successfully Sunday in the automated mode at the orbiting space station.

The previous Progress launch in April had ended in failure and a week ago a U.S. supply mission failed when SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket broke apart shortly after liftoff.

The mishaps were preceded by last October’s launch pad failure of Orbital Sciences’ Antares rocket, also carrying station cargo for NASA.



Home Depot Has Better Cyber Security Than 25 US Defense Contractors

July 6, 2015 By Aliya Sternstein Nextgov


New rankings raise questions about the extent to which cybersecurity is a shared responsibility between government agencies and contractors.

After revelations that a compromised contractor login abetted a grandiose breach of federal employees’ background investigations, now comes word that Defense Department suppliers score below hacked retailers when it comes to cyber defense.

The new industry-developed cyber rankings — and the recent Office of Personnel Management hack — raise questions about the extent to which cybersecurity is a shared responsibility between government agencies and contractors.

“You can write a contract requiring somebody to do something. The question is, how do you enforce it? And if it’s broken, what are the penalties? That’s what DOD is really struggling with,” said Jacob Olcott, vice president of business development at BitSight Technologies, which rates firms’ susceptibility to hacks. “If you are the only organization that’s building an F-35, there is only so much that the government can demand of you.”

When measured in aggregate, network controls at breached J.P. Morgan Chase and Home Depot, combined with the rest of the retail and financial sectors, rated higher than the top companies supporting the U.S. military, according to BitSight. Those firms include Boeing, Lockheed Martin, Raytheon and 22 other defense contractors.

The defense industrial complex is one of the most regulated sectors in the United States. Similarly, background investigation providers for OPM are congressionally mandated to log access to all databases holding personal information and review the log files daily.

But these paper policies are not working, according to security experts and recent events.


Federal officials say they cannot ascertain the extent of breaches of national security-sensitive data at OPM background checkers, USIS and KeyPoint Government Solutions, because neither had sufficient logs. The widely held assumption is that Beijing’s cyberspies copied employee files, potentially to blackmail U.S. personnel and their contacts.

A Senate Armed Services Committee report released last fall alleges Chinese-sponsored attackers entered the networks of U.S. Transportation Command contractors at least 20 times from June 2012 through June 2013.

As of last month, the median cyber score for defense contractors on a 900-point scale was 650. The higher the number, the stronger the security posture, according to BitSight. Financial institutions earned a score of 710 and retailers came in at 670.

The metrics are derived from sensors that can detect through the public Internet infected machines, insecure configurations and other indicators of poor security. The company’s proprietary algorithms analyze the severity and frequency of the problems and map the findings to a company’s known networks to generate an overall rating.

Olcott eye-witnessed agencies grapple with contractor oversight, while serving until a couple of years ago as a cyber policy staffer on the Senate Commerce Committee and before that as a House Homeland Security Committee aide.

Starting around a decade ago, “there was this recognition within DOD that these bad things were happening to all these guys, but who else can build an F-35?” he said.

The government still is promulgating directives to try protect data stored off-premises.

On June 18, the National Institute of Standards and Technology issued guidelines for potential contractor clauses involving the protection of sensitive “controlled unclassified” information housed outside of federal systems. The Pentagon in May 2014 released rules specific to defense contractors on counterfeit electronic parts, which aim to address the problem of suppliers inadvertently or intentionally corrupting computerized military systems. Those stipulations came on top of November 2013 contractor requirements for guarding nonpublic military technological and scientific data, referred to as “unclassified controlled technical information.”

Some big banks like Goldman Sachs, while in a different industry, have found a more hands-on way to minimize the outside supplier cyberthreat. They widely deploy external network monitoring tools and check the results, Olcott said.

“The guys at Goldman Sachs will say, ‘I can’t just rely on my vendors to proactively report to me when something bad is happening,” he said. “‘I need to know in real time what is happening with them and I need to be able to hold them accountable.'”



Someone Just Leaked The Price List for Cyberwar

July 6, 2015 By Patrick Tucker


A controversial cyber arms dealer gets hacked, revealing sales to the US military and less savory customers around the world.

On Monday, the Italian company Hacking Team, which produces secret cyber weapons for law-enforcement and government clients around the world, became the victim of an embarrassing public disclosure: more than 400 gigabytes of internal data made its way online in a widely shared torrent file. The group Reporters Without Borders has labeled Hacking Team “an enemy of the Internet,” for the surveillance tools and malware products it provides, with little transparency or accountability, to governments. News of the disclosure brought forth the sounds of schadenfreude from the privacy and tech communities.

So far, the exposed documents have already revealed a few key things about the group, its clients, and the business of cyberwar for hire.

The FBI has spent about $775,000 on the company’s Remote Control Service, or RCS, an eavesdropping system that pulls data from a target computer before it’s encrypted.

Hacking Team purports to sell its services to “law enforcement” but invoices reveal a wide assortment of unsavory clients, including the governments of Russia and Sudan, despite a UN arms embargo against the latter and contrary to previous assertions from company’s president, Christian Pozzi. It’s not clear that the company broke any laws with sales to Sudan, since surveillance software isn’t typically classified as a weapon.

The company had an “action plan” for further expansion into the United States market and listed a Naval Criminal Investigative Service representative as a potential sales target.

A previous disclosure from April showed that the United States Army bought an RCS system for $350,000. The most recent breach adds details: the system went to Fort Meade, but was never used, according to a (typo-ridden) email from Alex Velasco, the third-party contractor who closed the deal on behalf of Hacking Team. “They were never given permission to pull an internet line to their of?ce [sic] to install the system. (ridiculous but true!),” Velasco writes. “They also are interested in the new options that we have developed and want prices. They are not sure when we will be able to install but they believe that it could be in the next few months.”

Most incredibly, the hack brought to light the company’s price list, a blue book for surveillance and malware products. It’s a first-of-its-kind window into the going rate of cyberwar and espionage capabilities. Of the many offenses the company seems to have committed, price gouging seems to be one.

Want to hack into someone’s Windows device to steal Gmail data, turn on the microphone, and take snapshots with the camera? That’s an upfront license fee of €40,000 euros (about $44,200). Microphone recording and keystroke logging on in Mac OS will run you the same amount.

The company also sells what it calls “infection vectors,” or malware, including one product that “allows you to remotely infect Android and BlackBerry smartphones by sending specially crafted messages.” The price for that is €30,000.

Perhaps the strangest product on offer is a software-based AI agent, or “intelligence module,” that does some of the work of a real spy. The module “automatically processes all the evidence to extract and correlate the relevant bits of information, presenting you the overall picture of your investigations as it progress [sic] in time,” all for a price of €220,000.

There are a number of lessons to be learned from the breach.

“The Hacking Team case shows that international rules and controls should be applied more efficiently to private companies which are producing shady cybercapabilities and related technologies, as they are for conventional weapons,” Jarno Limnéll, a professor of cybersecurity at Aalto University in Finland, wrote in the International Business Times.

It also shows that the cyberweapons you build, or buy, can come back to haunt you.



General Atomics plans to set up drone academy in Grand Forks

by Press • 7 July 2015


GRAND FORKS, N.D. (AP) — North Dakota’s unmanned aircraft business and technology park has landed a second major defense contractor.

Sen. John Hoeven and Rep. Kevin Cramer say that General Atomics has reached a tentative agreement to establish an unmanned aerial systems training academy at Grand Sky, which is located on the Grand Forks Air Force Base.

General Atomics is one of the world’s leading developers of high-technology systems, including the Predator and Reaper drones. Company officials toured the park on Monday.

Northrop Grumman, which manufactures the Global Hawk drone, has already signed a lease agreement to be the first tenant at the park. Both General Atomics and Northrop Grumman sell aircraft overseas and expect to train international pilots in the United States.

Hoeven calls the tentative agreement with General Atomics a “big step forward.”


Former GSA official gets prison in conference scandal

Michael Hardy, News Editor 4:04 p.m. EDT July 6, 2015


Jeffrey Neely, the former General Services Administration official who was at the center of the Western Regions Conference scandal, has been sentenced to three months in prison for false claims against the government.

Neely had pleaded guilty to the charges, admitting that he billed GSA for a night’s stay at a Las Vegas resort even though he was not there on official business, according to the Washington Post. Neely was regional commissioner of GSA’s Public Buildings Service at the time.

Neely also must serve three months of home detention and pay a total of $10,000 in restitution and fines, according to Courthouse News Service.

He also admitted to additional false claims and to abusing his position and lying to the GSA inspector general, the Post reported.

The scandal, centered around lavish spending before and during a conference in 2010, came to light in 2012 IG report which led to then-administrator Martha Johnson’s resignation and the resignation or termination of several other officials.

IG Brian Miller wrote that many of the expenditures on the conference were “excessive, wasteful and in some cases, impermissible.” The total bill came to nearly $823,000.



Wide-area sensors shrinking as industry looks beyond military

By: James Drew

Washington DC

18:18 7 Jul 2015


The sensor industry appears to be going through something of a wide-area motion imagery, or WAMI, revolution with an across-the-board reduction in the size, weight and power of new systems, making city-wide airborne surveillance easier and cheaper.

Logos Technologies – a long-time innovator in the wide-area surveillance field – recently unveiled its latest WAMI sensor: the 16kg (35lb) Redkite, which the company says can surveil an area 4km wide and has 10 video cameras for a closer, high-resolution view of suspect areas.

The Virginia-based company said in a press statement that Redkite’s reduced size, weight and power requirement allow it to be mounted on light helicopters, planes and tactical unmanned aircraft. The sensor was first trialed last December in Colorado on a Eurocopter AS350.

“Redkite requires less than 500W to operate, making it the smallest and most power-efficient WAMI sensor in the world,” Logos says.


Logos president John Marion says the Redkite is being marketed to law enforcement agencies, firefighters and search and rescue teams, among other potential users “who traditional rely on narrow-field video cameras”.

The introduction of Redkite comes as Exelis, now owned by Harris Corp, markets its CorvusEye 1500 sensor domestically and abroad.

With a weight of 43kg (95lb), the sensor is far smaller than its military forebear, the Sierra Nevada Gorgon Stare – which is comparable in size and weight to two 227kg (500lb) bombs. The Air Force employs the twin Gorgon Stare pods on the General Atomics MQ-9 Reaper to monitor trouble spots in the Middle East and elsewhere around the globe.

CorvusEye fits inside a traditional 38cm (15in) sensor pod and can covers an area 3km wide during the day and 2km at night from an altitude of 15,000ft.

“This is a smaller version with many of the same capabilities, but for commercial and international use,” says Dwight Greenlee, director of regional persistent surveillance at Exelis. “Satellites were a huge step forward to cover wide swaths, and we’re just bringing that down to the airborne world so we can capture a huge swath with a lot more ground resolution.

“It’s actually actionable intelligence and puts the information into context. Everything’s recorded, so if there’s a security event that happens we can re-wind the clip.”

WAMI technology sensors went into combat during the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, through rogrammes like Gorgon Stare, Army Constant Hawk, and the defunct Blue Devil surveillance blimp. Today, the largest demand for WAMI capabilities is coming from various government entities and law enforcement agencies.

Redkite’s introduction expands Logos’ wide-area sensor offering to six, including the Kestre (68kg, 150lbs), Simera (18kg, 40lb), lightweight expeditionary airborne persistent surveillance, or LEAPS (24kg, 54lb), Serenity (29kg, 65lb) and the ship-based Skua system.



OPM hack hit potentially millions of troops, vets

Staff report 6:35 p.m. EDT July 9, 2015


Social Security numbers, family information, health records and even fingerprints of 21.5 million federal employees — including potentially millions of military personnel — were included a massive data theft last month from the Office of Personnel Management, officials acknowledged Thursday.

OPM Director Katherine Archuleta told reporters on a conference call that a second breach of her office’s servers was far more damaging than the first reported breach that affected roughly 4.2 million Americans.

A defense official confirmed Thursday that records of current and former service members dating back to at least 2000 were breached.

President Obama’s top cyber security assistant, Michael Daniel, who sits on the National Security Council, told reporters that the cyber threat continues to grow.

“Unfortunately, this incident is not without precedent,” Daniel said. “Cyber security threats are growing broader as we hook more and more stuff up to the Internet, and our adversaries are becoming more sophisticated and … more dangerous.”

Archuleta said the hackers obtained a staggering amount of personal identification. Social Security numbers, residency and education information, employment history, health information, criminal histories and financial histories were all breached in the hack, she said.

Also stolen were notes and data obtained by investigators in interviews, as well as personal information of immediate family members, she added.

An OPM release Thursday said the breach affected both security clearance applicants and nearly 2 million spouses and partners.

OPM has “concluded with high confidence that sensitive information, including the Social Security Numbers of 21.5 million individuals, was stolen from the background investigation databases,” the release reads. “This includes 19.7 million individuals that applied for a background investigation, and 1.8 million non-applicants, predominantly spouses or co-habitants of applicants.”

In June, OPM confirmed that hackers had broken into a database housing background investigations on all current, former and prospective federal employees seeking security clearances over the past 20 years.

FBI Director James Comey told a congressional committee that the database included highly sensitive Standard Form 86 documents, which also include information on family members and close friends, extending the tally beyond just federal employees.

“I’m sure the adversary has my SF 86,” Comey said, noting that the form includes information on his family and friends. “The numbers quickly grow far beyond the number of federal employees — which is millions over the last 20 years.”



Katherine Archuleta Resigns as OPM Director

Roll Call

Steven T. Dennis

11July 2015


Katherine Archuleta resigned Friday as director of the Office of Personnel Management, one day after disclosing that tens of millions of OPM accounts had been hacked — far more than initially disclosed.

Her resignation, accepted by the president, takes effect at the end of the day, and comes after she insisted she would not resign.

“Archuleta made clear to the president that she believed it was best for her to step aside and allow new leadership that would enable the agency to move beyond the current challenges and allow the employees at OPM to continue their important work,” a White House official said. “This includes responding to the recent breaches affecting personal information and improving the OPM systems to mitigate risks in the future.”

Beth Cobert, the chief performance officer and deputy director for management at the Office of Management and Budget, will take over for now as acting director of OPM.

“I conveyed to the President that I believe it is best for me to step aside and allow new leadership to step in, enabling the agency to move beyond the current challenges and allowing the employees at OPM to continue their important work,” Archuleta wrote in her statement.

She also said she was “proud of the work we have done to develop the REDI initiative and our IT Strategic Plan,” without mentioning the massive data breach.

White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest credited Archuleta with implementing changes that detected the data breach.

Members of Congress, who have torched Archuleta from both sides of the aisle over the unprecedented breach, sounded happy she’s out.

“This is the absolute right call,” said House Oversight and Government Reform Chairman Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah. “OPM needs a competent, technically savvy leader to manage the biggest cybersecurity crisis in this nation’s history.

“The IG has been warning about security lapses at OPM for almost a decade. This should have been addressed much, much sooner but I appreciate the President doing what’s best now. In the future, positions of this magnitude should be awarded on merit and not out of patronage to political operatives.”

Katherine Archuleta resigned less than a day after saying she wouldn't.© Al Drago/CQ Roll Call Katherine Archuleta resigned less than a day after saying she wouldn’t.

Rep. Adam B. Schiff, D-Calif., the ranking member of the House Intelligence Committee, praised the move as “one that will help to restore confidence in an agency that not only poorly defended sensitive data of millions of Americans but struggled to respond to repeated intrusions.”

“In the weeks and months ahead, it is clear that much more work will be needed to safeguard our networks, especially those which hold the most sensitive details about Government employees, many of whom are entrusted with critical national security missions.”

Rep. Ted Lieu, D-Calif., said he and Rep. Steve Russell, R-Okla., are working on a bill to move security clearances out of the OPM.

“The massive security clearance breach also shows that OPM is not the proper agency to protect the crown jewels of American intelligence,” Lieu said in a statement. “OPM was never designed to be an intelligence or national security agency.”

Sen. Ben Sasse, R-Neb., had predicted Archuleta might get tossed aside.

“In the coming days, when OPM provides Congress more details about the hack, Director Katherine Archuleta may play the sacrificial lamb and lose her job,” he wrote Thursday in a Wired column. “This will be a transparent attempt to con the public into thinking the problem is solved. At best, firings are consequences, not solutions.”

On Friday, he sent out a statement on the resignation: “Not enough.”



OPM hack’s unprecedented haul: 1.1 million fingerprints

By Jose Pagliery @Jose_Pagliery

The hackers who stole millions of federal personnel files also took 1.1 million fingerprints, a theft that poses an unprecedented danger.

This is extremely sensitive information, especially as we increasingly use biometric scanners on phones and computers.

This could be one of the potentially worst parts of the Office of Personnel Management hack affecting 21.5 million people. Whoever has this information — U.S. intelligence thinks it’s likely China — could use the stolen fingerprints to better spy on America.

“It’s across federal agencies. It’s everybody,” an OPM spokesman told CNNMoney on Friday.

In a Mission Impossible-type scenario, the thieves could create physical copies using latex or similar materials, then break into the fingerprint-locked devices of U.S. diplomats and government agents. This would expose secret conversations, disrupt investigations or poison international negotiations.

And potentially worse, these stolen records could unmask undercover investigators masquerading as other people.

“They’re completely compromised,” said biometrics expert Ramesh Kesanupalli. “A secret agent’s name might be different. But they’ll know who you are because your fingerprint is there. You’ll be outed immediately.”

Kesanupalli has given fingerprints a lot of thought. He created something called the FIDO protocol, a safe way to use the human body to unlock devices. And now he wonders if this collection of 1.1 million stolen fingerprints will end up on the black market. It would create a brand new type of trafficked stolen good: biometrics.

That’s worse than exposed Social Security numbers. Those can be replaced.

“It’s not like they have someone’s password. Fingerprints are data that doesn’t change. They’ll never change. Twenty years from now, this will still be useful,” said Robert M. Lee, co-founder of cybersecurity software maker Dragos Security.

Cybersecurity experts are trying to make fingerprints even harder to duplicate.

Karl Weintz, who leads the biometrics company Sonavation, said his firm is creating a biometric fingerprint that uses ultrasound to scan 5 millimeters deep, mapping bone structure, blood vessels, and even nerve endings.

At this point, it’s difficult to determine how detailed and exact the stolen records are. Some federal agencies use classic ink-on-paper, while others use high-resolution digital scans. OPM couldn’t immediately determine how all 1.1 million records were stored, but the stolen batch does include fingerprint records going to back to 2000, when ink images were regularly used.

“They have the most secure keys for people who are interesting enough for OPM to get fingerprints of,” said Jonathan Sander, an executive at cybersecurity firm STEALTHbits. “What locks can these guys open? That’s the question.”






Pentagon Reconsidering Total F-35 Buy, Dunford Says

July 9, 2015 By Marcus Weisgerber


All three variants have seen design tweaks, program managers have come and gone, and the projected price tag has climbed and climbed. Meanwhile, the world changed as well, while wars in Afghanistan and Iraq sucked money from long-term weapons projects. Through it all, Pentagon officials maintained they would need exactly 2,443 combat F-35s, plus 14 development aircraft, to deter and fight potential adversaries such as China.

But now radical extremists are wreaking havoc across much of the Middle East and northern Africa, and Russia has re-emerged as a major foe. On Thursday morning, Gen. Joseph Dunford, the Marine Corps commandant nominated to become the next chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told the Senate Armed Services Committee that the F-35 buying plan is under review.

“Given the evolving defense strategy and the latest Defense Planning Guidance, we are presently taking the newest strategic foundation and analyzing whether 2,443 aircraft is the correct number,” Dunford wrote in response to questions asked by the committee in advance of his hearing Thursday. “Until the analysis is complete, we need to pursue the current scheduled quantity buy to preclude creating an overall near-term tactical fighter shortfall.”

Dunford’s comments come one week after Army Gen. Martin Dempsey, the outgoing JCS chairman, warned in a new National Military Strategy that the military might need to rethink and reorganize for the hybrid wars of the future.

That doesn’t mean the F-35 — the largest weapons program ever, by many billions of dollars — is going away. “With projected adversarial threats challenging our current capabilities in coming years, the Joint Strike Fighter is a vital component of our effort to ensure the Joint Force maintains dominance in the air,” Dunford wrote.

The entire program, both developing and buying the actual jets, is projected to cost $400 billion, while operating and maintaining those planes is projected to cost between $859 billion and $1 trillion. In addition to the 2,457 U.S. aircraft, allies are projected to purchase hundreds of F-35s.

Many experts believed the Pentagon’s vision of a fleet of 2,443 Lockheed Martin F-35s was a pipe dream — but also that the program was likely stable for at least 15 to 20 years of its planned three-decade procurement period.

“I don’t think anybody on Wall Street would be surprised if [the Defense Department] starts to back away from that number just because I don’t think anybody really gave Lockheed Martin or the subcontractors on the program full credit for the total buy,” Byron Callan, a defense analyst with Capital Alpha Partners said.

“That said, we’re still probably going to get to a build rate of 150 [aircraft] per year total, at least for the early part of the decade,” he said. “Then the real question is what happens beyond that.”

After years of cost increases and schedule slips, the F-35 project has largely stabilized over the past three years, according to defense officials. The Marine Corps version of the jet will soon be declare battle-ready. In the coming years, the Pentagon is planning to increase its annual orders of the aircraft.

But while the F-35 program stretched out year by year, other strategic national-security priorities began appearing. At the end of the next decade, the Air Force is planning to buy new long-range stealth bombers, while the Navy plans to buy an expensive replacement for the Ohio-class submarine.

“If confirmed, I will advise the Secretary as he assesses the delicate balance of the capacity and the capabilities of the future Joint Force,” Dunford wrote. “This advice will be informed by the extent to which the F-35 program conforms to the priority requirements identified by Combatant Commanders and the Department’s strategic plans.”

While Dunford is the first senior-level defense official to acknowledge that the total F-35 buy could change, his comments are not likely to affect stocks or prompt companies to change their business plans, Callan said.

Lockheed shares were up $2.60 to $192.70 in late-day trading.


Rasmussen Reports

What They Told Us: Reviewing Last Week’s Key Polls

Bottom of Form

Saturday, July 11, 2015

Most of the nation’s major cities have been so-called “sanctuary cities” that don’t enforce immigration laws for quite a while, but that uncomfortable fact has been under the spotlight in recent days.

Following the recent murder of a young woman in San Francisco by an illegal immigrant from Mexico, most voters want to get tough on these sanctuary cities, calling for U.S. Justice Department prosecution and an end to federal funding.

The suspect in the San Francisco killing has a long criminal record and has been deported to Mexico several times but always manages to come back. He says he was attracted to San Francisco because it doesn’t cooperate with immigration authorities.

The San Francisco incident has been cited by defenders of Republican presidential hopeful Donald Trump’s comments about the high level of criminality among illegal immigrants. Democrats understandably have criticized Trump, but Jeb Bush and the chairman of the Republican National Committee, obsessed with the elusive Hispanic vote, also have distanced themselves from Trump’s remarks.

Interestingly, however, most voters (53%) – and 76% of Republicans – agree with Trump that illegal immigration increases the level of serious crime in America.

Voters also agree with Trump’s views on immigration more than Hillary Clinton’s.

Most voters expect biased media coverage of the 2016 presidential race, and the media response to recent immigration comments by Clinton and Trump is a good case in point.

Despite the increasing media coverage going to some of her rivals for the 2016 Democratic presidential nomination, Clinton remains hugely ahead as far as her party’s voters are concerned

Jim Webb, a former U.S. senator from Virginia, is the latest candidate for the Democratic presidential nomination. Do enough voters know who he is? How do they rate Webb’s chances to be his party’s nominee?

Clinton’s campaign is increasingly focusing on Jeb Bush as the likely Republican nominee next year. Bush recently released 33 years of tax returns to the public, but do voters really want to see that many tax returns? 

For the first time in over four years, over half of voters believe that the United States is a more dangerous place than it was before the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks

South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley signed a bill to have the Confederate flag removed from the state’s Capitol grounds yesterday. Forty-three percent (43%) of all voters think the flag symbolizes Southern heritage, while 39% say it’s a symbol of hatred. Twelve percent (12%) say neither.

But then it also looks like the North and South still don’t see eye-to-eye on the Civil War 150 years after it ended.

Confidence in the direction of the country jumped following the recent U.S. Supreme Court decisions on Obamacare and gay marriage. We’ll be watching to see if that’s an emerging trend or just a hiccup.

But negative views of the Supreme Court are at their highest level in nearly nine years of regular surveying.

President Obama’s daily job approval rating appears to be settling back into the negative mid-teens at week’s end.

In other surveys last week:

Is Congress for sale?

— Most voters still don’t believe the United States is doing all it can to develop its own energy resources, even as more than ever think America can kick its foreign oil dependency.

— Voters appear more supportive of Obama’s proposed expansion of overtime pay than they were last year, but most still feel that business owners, not the government, should make the decisions about their businesses.

— Puerto Rico is $72 billion in debt and can’t pay its bills, but voters oppose a federal government bailout for the longtime U.S. commonwealth.


From → Uncategorized

Comments are closed.

%d bloggers like this: