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August 15 2015

August 17, 2015



15 August 2015


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The Greatest Threat to America

By Paul D. Shinkman

August 7, 2015


In the modern world, dangers against Americans abound.

U.S. decision-makers are confronted with myriad complex issues, including the Islamic State group and “lone-wolf” terrorists, China, cyber attacks from unknown hackers, al-Qaida, cyber attacks from known hackers, Iran, domestic budget cuts, North Korea, climate change, drug cartels straddling its borders, and Russia’s continued ability to reduce the North American continent to a radioactive crisp.

The job of commander-in-chief has perhaps never been more difficult, and public disagreement among the president’s top advisers gives the appearance to those outside the White House Situation Room that top U.S. national security infrastructure doesn’t know where to start.

July saw top officials from across the government asked publicly what they believed served as the greatest threat facing the U.S. Their responses gave insight into the most closely guarded meetings within the executive branch where the commander-in-chief and his top lieutenants cannot settle for anything less than accurately anticipating the future. It’s a job the U.S. has never quite perfected, and it is perhaps more difficult now than ever.

“You’re hearing a cacophony of views, because it’s almost unpredictable,” says Barry Pavel, a former senior national security adviser to presidents Barack Obama and George W. Bush, and longtime Pentagon policy official. He cites, for example, the “fantastical scenario” a decade ago that the Russian military would act belligerently and march on a foreign country. What may have been considered a fringe forecast turns out to have been pretty accurate.

“It does reflect that there’s no single overriding existential threat to the U.S. as there was during the Cold War,” says Samuel “Sandy” Berger, the national security adviser to President Bill Clinton until 2001. And during that time, the U.S. and the Soviet Union each knew roughly how many missiles the other had. “It was an easy framework to think about.”

So how to prepare for a far more complex world? It became a favored question of Sen. Joe Manchin last month. The West Virginia Democrat exploited a time of almost unprecedented turnover among the Joint Chiefs of Staff to grill the nation’s new top officers about what they fear most.

“My assessment today, senator, is that Russia presents the greatest threat to our national security,” came a snappy answer from Marine Gen. Joseph Dunford, in his nomination hearing. His characteristic clarity surprised some, who figured the infantry commander who earned his combat chops in Iraq and Afghanistan might prioritize Islamic extremism or the cauldron of violence that now serves as much of the Middle East.

“In Russia, we have a nuclear power,” the general responded to Manchin’s request for further details. “We have one that not only has capability to violate sovereignty of our allies to do things that are inconsistent with our national interests, but they’re in the process of doing so.”

Russia poses an existential threat to the U.S., he finished. And its behavior “is nothing short of alarming.”

Perhaps predictably, Obama’s pick to become Dunford’s No. 2 answered accordingly a few days later. Air Force Gen. Paul Selva prioritized his top threats in order: “Russia, China, Iran and North Korea and all of the organizations that have grown around the ideology that was articulated by al-Qaida early in the turn of this century.” He visibly irked Armed Services Committee Chairman Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., for not emphasizing the dangers posed by the Islamic State group, but offered a thoughtful response to the strict opponent of Obama’s foreign policies.

“ISIS does not present a clear and present threat to our homeland and to the existence of our nation,” Selva declared. “It is a threat we must deal with and we must help our regional partners deal with, but it does not threaten us at home.”

Army Gen. Mark Milley, tapped to become the service branch’s new top officer, echoed Selva’s remarks in his own confirmation hearing, specifically citing Russia’s continued aggression in Ukraine, as well as its actions in Crimea last year and in Georgia in 2008. “So I would put Russia, right now, from a military perspective, as the No. 1 threat,” he said, adding China, North Korea, the Islamic State group and Iran.

Marine Lt. Gen. Robert B. Neller, however, upset the streak. Obama’s pick to lead the Marine Corps agreed Russia poses the greatest threat among nation states, adding an important qualifier.

“I don’t think they want to fight us,” he said. “Right now, I don’t think they want to kill Americans.”

Then he explained his read on regional hearts and minds.

“I think violent extremists want to kill us. And their capability is not that great but their intent is high, and the fact that they have a message that seems to resonate around the world, not just in this country but in other countries in the Western world. They concern me equally.”

Rounding out the top ranks, Navy Adm. John Richardson added to the complexity of dangers during his confirmation hearing.

“Our nation is pulled in so many different directions,” the career submariner and nuclear officer said, before listing the “Indo-Asia-Pacific,” Russian aggression and violence in the Middle East as the top threats. Then he turned his attention to Congress, blasting the across-the-board mandatory cuts known as sequestration as a threat to national security. He pointed to the fact that many officers feel the cuts have gutted their forces and become a symptom of a growing divide between the military and the public it serves

“It’s remarkable how different officials say pretty markedly different things about the prioritization of threats,” says Elbridge Colby, a senior fellow at the Center for a New American Security. “What it means is the U.S. needs to be prepared to deal with plausible contingencies.”

Selva, for example, says the Islamic State group is not a threat to the homeland, akin to Obama’s dismissal of the extremist group before its onslaught in Iraq as a “JV team.” However, Neller states that they want to kill Americans, unlike Russia. Those who have operated in the White House Situation Room call this “pieces of partial advice.”

“What they have both answered is, ‘What is the greatest threat to the homeland?’ That’s different than ‘What is the greatest threat to the United States?'” says Berger, the former Clinton adviser and now co-chairman of the Albright Stonebridge Group. “If I’m the president, obviously the homeland is my first responsibility. But America has security interests in the world that go beyond the direct safety of the American people.”

And instability in places like Syria could foment further extremism within key allied states like Turkey or Saudi Arabia.

“Is that a threat to the homeland? No. Would it be? Yes,” Berger says.

Preparing for these threats requires more than simply giving advice. In addition to offering their unvarnished counsel, top officials must also worry about how they’re going to pay for their subsequent marching orders.

Milley, the former special forces operator and airborne infantryman, is facing severe cuts to the total number of Army soldiers by as many as 40,000, on top of existing reductions of 80,000. The potential for ground war in Europe, he says, might encourage Congress to open up its coffers to reduce those cuts. The same logic would apply to the Air Force, whose nuclear forces continue to struggle, and the Navy, which may not be able to afford to operate all of its ships.

That funding can be difficult to justify, considering the U.S. track record. NATO militaries during the Cold War and after were aligned to defend against Russian tanks rolling across Eastern Europe. Instead, the U.S. was wrong-footed by Putin’s ability to deploy “little green men” commandos to incite insurrection in eastern Ukraine and provide the critical feint to occupy Crimea.

Adding further complication, the military’s foreign concerns clash with the concerns of its domestic counterparts.

Top officials overseeing homeland security focus squarely on a more endemic threat: the Islamic State group, and its ability to recruit foreigners to fight for its cause. Others prioritize what are known as domestic “lone wolves,” perhaps those inspired by the Islamic State group’s so-called caliphate in Syria and Iraq. They are almost impossible to find and stop.

“The threat that ISIL poses to the U.S. is very different in kind, in type, in degree than al-Qaida,” FBI Director James Comey said, speaking to an audience at the Aspen Security Forum late last month. “ISIL is not your parents’ al-Qaida.”

He discussed the organization’s ability to “crowdsource terrorism” through social media and the difficulties the U.S. has had in tracking Americans who have traveled to Syria to join its cause. Comey wouldn’t divulge specific numbers, but estimates it’s in the dozens. They range in age from 16 to 62, and include men and women, all drawn to “that siren song that is buzzing on their Twitter feed.”

Department of Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson offered similar concerns earlier in July.

“Without a doubt, there is the potential, the very real potential, of domestic acts of terrorism,” he told a congressional panel. “The terrorist threat to the homeland from overseas that I’m concerned about is one that is making active efforts to recruit people in response to ISIL’s recruitment efforts. And so we’ve been, as you know, very focused on that.”

So what is a single commander-in-chief to do, when presented by his top lieutenants with such a myriad of threats?

Colby, who has previously advised top officials at the White House, Pentagon and Foggy Bottom, says each officer is doing his job by prioritizing different dangers.

“I want my director of the National Counterterrorism Center, the director of the FBI and the Homeland Security secretary to be focused on the terrorism threat,” he says. “I want my military to be able to deal with [threats] if their intentions change or if their intentions prove to be more maligned.”

That balance can help determine the real capability of these powers and their actual intent.

“The threats are additive,” says Pavel, now with the Atlantic Council. “We can’t say, ‘This one is more important than that one.’ We have to address five or six threats.”

“You engage in the process. You make sure you allocate resources both for investing in future capabilities, but also dealing with the here and now of our military exercises and work with allies and partners.

In short, he says, “you have to do it all. Which makes it difficult.”

A simple understatement. And as Obama enters his last 18 months in office, it remains unclear whether he’ll be able to soothe world threats for his eventual successor.


Air Force Study Shows Potential, Limits of Quantum Tech

By Aaron Mehta 2:04 p.m. EDT August 9, 2015


WASHINGTON — As the Pentagon seeks to maintain a technological military edge over the rest of the world, the potential of quantum technology is tantalizing.

But a new report by an Air Force research group has found that while quantum capabilities could impact everything from major platforms to data processing, in many areas the technology is not quite ready for use.

The report was performed by the Air Force Scientific Advisory Board (SAB), an independent federal advisory committee made up of 50 scientists and researchers who every year drill down on a series of topics the service has asked them to consider.

This most recent trio of studies, which launched in January, looked at how — or if — the Air Force should invest its research funding into upgrading unmanned systems, the utility of quantum technologies, and how to build in cybersecurity for internal processors on existing and current platforms.

The report, which has a focus on quantum technologies, will only be released in a redacted form come January, but Werner Dahm, a former chief scientist of the Air Force who serves as SAB chairman, briefed reporters last week about some of the findings.

The results, he said, were not what he had expected.

“By about a third of the way through the study it became clear that while there is a lot of hype in this area — there are a lot of people walking around saying ‘magic,’ essentially, is possible with quantum systems — it’s just not true,” he said. “These systems have enormous potential, but there is much more hype than reality in there.”

And that is the problem with quantum technologies in a nutshell — the possibilities are endless, but it’s not clear exactly when, or if, any of those possibilities can be tapped. Or, as the Center for a New American Security’s senior fellow and director of the Technology and National Security Program, Ben FitzGerald, put it, “The word ‘theoretical’ comes up everywhere with quantum computing.”

But while much of the capability is hypothetical, the US cannot afford to ignore the growth of quantum capabilities. According to Dahm, America accounts for about a quarter of the total global-declared R&D in quantum technologies. Coming in second, he noted, is China, which means the US isn’t just looking for advantages, but defenses against quantum-enabled weaponry.

FitzGerald said quantum technology falls right in “the sweet spot” for the Pentagon.

“It’s theoretical, it’s complex, it potentially solves a number of challenges the DoD already has without requiring any major institutional reform,” FitzGerald said. “It helps the department deal with issues around encryption and also to deal with data.”

FitzGerald said quantum is part of the “next generation of next-generation technologies,” which could have an impact on defense far down the line.

Or as Mark Gunzinger, a senior fellow with the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments, put it: “Quantum computing may be the next step toward maintaining the US military’s ability to assess and react to tactical situations far more quickly than its enemies.”



The three areas the SAB found had utility for the Air Force were quantum sensing, quantum communications and quantum computing.

For sensing, the potential for quantum navigation systems to replace inertial measurement units could deliver very high accuracy while not being jammed, giving pilots precise position information even if GPS is being blocked by an enemy.

“These systems are making remarkable progress and could be brought to a level of maturity in a relatively close time scale,” Dahm said.

Similarly, these sensors could give more accurate timing to weapons or other systems — if they can be shrunk down to fit onto a plane or bomb. The study recommends that the Air Force “take the lead” and invest in miniaturization of these systems.

But while some systems may be near-ready, that doesn’t mean they fit into the Air Force concept of operations. As an example, Dahm said that the oil and gas industry is using quantum gravity gradiometers to search for areas with reservoirs of oil. That’s off-the-shelf technology available now —– but it requires the plane to fly low to the ground, which is likely at odds with Air Force operations.

Quantum communications are less fruitful, with the SAB concluding that the service should spend its money elsewhere.

“The high-level takeaway on the communication part is that most of what the studies saw in the quantum area, the Air Force has equally good or better alternatives with other approaches,” Dahm said.

That includes things like quantum key distribution, which could enhance secure communications. But “rather remarkably” the Air Force has other alternatives that are not as complex but provide roughly the same level of security, Dahm said.


“That came as quite a surprise, certainly to me, but that’s why we do these [studies],” Dahm said.

The Air Force, in particular, has struggled with what officials have called a “tsunami of data” that comes off various intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance platforms. FitzGerald said that quantum computers could help in that regard.

Gunzinger added: “Quantum computing could revolutionize operations that require crunching large amounts of data very quickly. It has obvious implications for validating the massive lines of code now needed to operate advanced weapon systems such as stealth fighters, for creating cyber operations time advantages over enemies and conducting other operations which are extremely time sensitive.”

Seth Lloyd, a professor at the engineering systems division of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology who has studied quantum technologies, said data crunching is a great use of quantum computers. But a more exciting one, he said, is machines learning algorithms — which could eventually lead to automated data processing.

“With quantum computers, you can detect patterns in a way you can’t” with older systems, Lloyd said.

But while the imagination is focused on the hardware side, Dahm said, the trick is designing the algorithms that would allow software to operate on high-end future computers.

“It’s the software side where things are weak, and unless the software matures much further, it is unlikely the Air Force should be expecting great utility from quantum computing,” Dahm said. Instead, he noted, the “study recommends a modest, continued effort, with a shift in focus more to the algorithm side than the hardware side.”

Given the level of investment in quantum computing from industry — Canadian firm D-Wave, which claims to have the first fully operational quantum computer, counts both the US government and Lockheed Martin among its customer base — FitzGerald sees “some merit to the approach that says we should focus on algorithms rather than computing, from a purely market dynamics perspective.”

Lloyd also said that companies such as Google, Microsoft and IBM are pumping millions of dollars into quantum technology development.

The SAB is now turning its gaze to its next project list, which is expected to be announced in the coming weeks. The three completed studies are being briefed at the Pentagon, with final reports due by the end of summer for a January released.




Russia Merges AF With Missile Defense, Space Commands

By Matthew Bodner 11:12 a.m. EDT August 8, 2015


MOSCOW — In a bid to streamline Russia’s air and space defenses in the face of what Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu characterized as “a shift in the combat ‘center of gravity’ toward the aerospace theater,” the Defense Ministry has merged several branches of the military into a new Aerospace Force.

“Air forces, anti-air and anti-missile defenses, and space forces will now be under a unified command structure,” Shoigu was quoted by Russian news agencies as saying, two days after President Vladimir Putin authorized the merger of the three military branches Aug. 1.

The merger represents an evolution in Russian military thinking, as the Soviets historically treated air and space as separate theaters of war, and separated command authority for the Air Force, air defenses and space assets among different command structures with little, if any, overlap.

Shoigu described the merger as “the best option for streamlining our nation’s system of air and space defenses” to better combat what Russia sees as growing threats from both air and space — treating the two mediums as a single theater of war for the first time in Russian military history.

Gen. Evgenzy Buzhinsky, a former member of Russia’s General Staff, told Defense News that embracing the idea of an aerospace theater is a basic tenet of modern warfare, and organizationally the separation of the Air Force, Air Defense and Space Command was “absolutely obsolete.”

“We are lagging behind in many spheres, but we are catching up,” he said.


Ongoing Overhaul

Creation of Russia’s Aerospace Force builds upon an earlier marriage of Russia’s air-defense forces and the space forces in 2011 into a new branch of the military known as the Aerospace Defense Forces (ADF). The ADF was tasked with defending Russian airspace from airborne and space-borne attacks, and was billed as a new contingent of the Russian military apparatus.

The force was to be equipped with new S-400 air defense systems — substantial upgrades to the S-300 system — and the still-in-development S-500 air and missile defense system.

A reported 20 percent of Putin’s sweeping decade-long 20 trillion ruble (US $316.8 billion) rearmament and modernization program was set aside to pay for the new defense systems for the ADF.

Taken as a whole, Putin’s modernization campaign, launched in 2011, is intended to replace up to 70 percent of Russia’s military hardware with new, advanced gear by 2020 to boost military capabilities across all branches of the Russian armed forces.

“Its the same logic that motivated the US to consolidate commands under the Air Force long ago, but it’s also a part of the process of reforming Russia’s armed forces,” said Buzhinsky, who is now the chairman of the board of directors at the Moscow-based PIR Center think tank.

With or without Russia’s current standoff with NATO amid the Ukraine crisis, these reforms would have gone through, Buzhinsky argued, though as with all Russian military decisions lately it is envisioned as a means to counter what Moscow considers to be the threat posed by the US and NATO to Russian national security and strategic interests.


Countering NATO?

The creation of Russia’s Aerospace Force comes hot on the heels of another major shift in Russian military thinking — the amendment of Russia’s naval doctrine in late July to prioritize countering NATO expansion toward Russian borders and interests.

The doctrine enshrined the creation of a new Russian blue water Navy to project force into the Atlantic Ocean. This involves strengthening the Northern Fleet’s position in the Arctic, which is the only region from which Russian forces can enter the Atlantic unhindered by NATO.

Though the doctrine also calls for strengthening the Baltic and Black Sea fleets, these forces have to pass through NATO-controlled waters to enter the Atlantic.

The Aerospace Force appears to be similarly focused on countering NATO forces, albeit with a more pronounced defensive posture. Though the new branch appears to take organizational cues from the US Air Force by merging forces operating above the ground under one roof, the Strategic Rocket Forces were left out of the Aerospace Force.

The Strategic Rocket Forces operate Russia’s land-based nuclear missiles, which suggests a defensive orientation to the new force.

However, Buzhinsky explained the exclusion of the Strategic Rocket Forces as a matter of habit. As Russia’s most important military asset, the nuclear missile forces have always been under their own command and will remain independent from the Aerospace Force, he said.

In fact, an unidentified Defense Ministry source quoted by news agency Interfax said that the obvious reason for the reorganization was to better prepare to defend against hypersonic missiles developed under the US Prompt Global Strike program.


Rogue drones a growing nuisance across the U.S.

By Craig Whitlock

August 10 at 7:21 PM 


Rogue drone operators are rapidly becoming a national nuisance, invading sensitive airspace and private property — with the regulators of the nation’s skies largely powerless to stop them.

In recent days, drones have smuggled drugs into an Ohio prison, smashed against a Cincinnati skyscraper, impeded efforts to fight wildfires in California and nearly collided with three airliners over New York City.

Earlier this summer, a runaway two-pound drone struck a woman at a gay pride parade in Seattle, knocking her unconscious. In Albuquerque, a drone buzzed into a crowd at an outdoor festival, injuring a bystander. In Tampa, a drone reportedly stalked a woman outside a downtown bar before crashing into her car.

The altercations are the byproduct of the latest consumer craze: cheap, easy-to-fly, remotely piloted aircraft. Even basic models can soar thousands of feet high and come equipped with powerful video cameras — capabilities that would have been hard to foresee just a few years ago.

Reports began surfacing last year of runaway drones interfering with air traffic and crashing into buildings. But the problem has grown worse as drone sales have surged.

“I’m definitely getting much more concerned about it,” Michael P. Huerta, the head of the Federal Aviation Administration, said in a phone interview Monday. He said the FAA was particularly worried about a surge in reports of drones flying dangerously close to airports. The latest incident came Sunday, when four airline crews reported a brush with a drone on a flight path into Newark International Airport.

Huerta added that the recent interference by drones with California firefighters was “really a wake-up call for a lot of people. This kind of thing has got to stop.”

Most new drone models are aimed at novice fliers who are often “blissfully unaware” of aviation safety practices, said Michael Braasch, an electrical engineering professor and drone expert at Ohio University. “Unfortunately, there’s also going to be a small percentage of users who are just going to behave badly.”

The Consumer Electronics Association, an industry group, estimates that hobbyists will buy 700,000 of the remote-controlled aircraft in the United States this year, a 63 percent increase from 2014.

Although the vast majority of drone enthusiasts fly solely for recreation, authorities worry about the potential for a new airborne menace.

In a July 31 intelligence bulletin, the Department of Homeland Security said it had recorded more than 500 incidents since 2012 in which rogue drones hovered over “sensitive sites and critical installations,” such as military bases and nuclear plants. In one well-publicized case in January, a drone crashed onto the White House grounds.

Another unnerving scenario emerged last month when a Connecticut man posted an Internet video of a drone he had armed with a handgun, firing shots by remote control as it hovered in the air. Local police and the Federal Aviation Administration determined that no laws had been broken.

In general, drone misadventures are happening in a regulatory vacuum. The FAA has banned most commercial drone flights until it can finalize new safety rules – a step that will take at least another year.

But people who fly drones for fun aren’t regulated at all. Under a law passed in 2012 that was designed in part to protect model-airplane enthusiasts, the FAA cannot impose new restrictions on recreational drone owners. As a result, they are not required to obtain licenses, register their aircraft or undergo training.

To protect regular air traffic, the FAA has issued guidelines requiring that consumer drones stay at least five miles away from airports and below an altitude of 400 feet.

Those standards are widely flouted, however; in the past month alone, airline pilots have reported close calls with drones near airports in New York, Charlotte, Minneapolis and Phoenix.

In neighborhoods nationwide, the buzz of drones is becoming a common sound, as well as a source of conflict. Police blotters contain an increasing number of reports from residents complaining about uninvited drones hovering over their back yards.

For the most part, such flights are legal — a fact that is prompting a backlash from anti-drone vigilantes.

In Hillview, Ky., a shotgun-wielding homeowner blasted a drone out of the sky last month, saying he was trying to protect his daughters from being spied on. He was charged with criminal mischief; police did not take action against the drone owner.

Similarly, in May, a judge ordered a man from Modesto, Calif., to pay a neighbor $850 for peppering his drone with buckshot. In September, a man from Cape May, N.J., was charged with shooting down a neighbor’s drone as it filmed houses along Seashore Road.

In other cases, however, authorities have been more sympathetic toward drone haters. In June, for example, prosecutors did not take action against a crew of firefighters in Orange County, N.Y., who used their water hoses to knock down a drone that had been filming them as they battled a house blaze.

In California, state legislators introduced a bill last month that would grant immunity to emergency responders who damage a drone that gets in their way. The measure was prompted by several incidents in which amateur paparazzi drones swarmed around wildfires, crowding the skies and forcing firefighters to ground their tanker aircraft to avoid a midair collision.

“Cars were torched on the freeways because drones made aerial firefighting efforts impossible,” state Sen. Ted Gaines (R-El Dorado), a sponsor of the measure, said in a statement. “This is maddening and I can’t believe that hobby drones are risking people’s lives to get videos on YouTube.”

Although the FAA lacks the authority to license recreational drones, it does have the power to impose civil fines on anyone who recklessly interferes with air traffic or endangers people on the ground. Yet the agency has levied fines in only a handful of cases, saying it does not have the staff to investigate most complaints.

Huerta, the FAA chief, said Monday that the recent spate of risky incidents prompted the agency to revisit its approach and that it will adopt “more stringent enforcement” measures in cooperation with state and local officials.

For months, FAA officials had focused almost exclusively on trying to educate drone operators.

The agency has partnered with the drone industry and others on a public awareness campaign aimed at hobbyists called Know Before You Fly. The FAA has also co-sponsored public service announcements to discourage drone use at special events and locations, such as the Super Bowl, the California wildfires and a no-fly zone that covers much of the Washington region.

FAA officials said they are encouraging major retailers to provide drone-safety information to holiday shoppers this year. The agency also is testing a software application for Apple devices that would inform drone users whether it is safe or legal to fly at a specified location.

Drone manufacturers have made it easy for consumers to fly the robotic aircraft right out of the box. But companies need to take more responsibility for educating their customers by adding warning labels, devising software fixes to limit where drones can fly and taking other steps, said James H. Williams, a former manager of the FAA’s drone integration office.

“In a lot of ways, it’s up to the manufacturers to warn people about flying too high, flying too close to airports, flying too close to airplanes,” said Williams, now an aviation consultant for Dentons, a major law firm. “It’s important that they step up and do more than they are.”

Brian Wynne, the president of the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International, an industry group, said that “there’s always room” for drone companies to expand education efforts. But he said there is only so much the industry can do to prevent reckless behavior.

“I frankly just don’t think there’s any excuse for anyone flying a [drone] anywhere near an airport or near a runway,” he said. “We have got to enforce our laws.”


Delivering an Internet of Postal Things

Aaron Boyd,

Federal Times

1:29 p.m. EDT August 10, 2015


As the world moves closer to the Internet of Things — an environment where everything is connected with an IP address — one agency that deals with lots of “things” on a daily basis is looking at how new technology can help it meet its mission.

The potential for an interconnected Postal Service is explored in a new USPS Inspector General report on the Internet of Postal Things, which examines the opportunities such a network would provide, as well as the infrastructure needed to make it effective.

“Interconnecting the postal network can provide endless opportunities for new, smarter applications, especially in the areas of delivery, transportation and logistics, building management and government services,” the IG wrote, noting, “The development of an open platform where data are stored, managed and shared, as well as strong privacy and security policies will be key to the successful implementation of an IoPT.”

According to the IG, the Postal Service’s large infrastructure, experience with big data and consumer demand for more information make it a perfect test case for what agencies can do with IoT.

The review — conducted in cooperation with IBM — focused on how IoT technology could improve service in four main areas:


•Transportation and Logistics: Sensors to monitor the postal fleet could maximize efficiency, reduce fuel costs and ensure maintenance resources are used to the greatest effect.

•Smarter Postal Buildings: Similar to transportation, smarter buildings could reduce energy usage and optimize operations, security and safety.

•Enhanced Mail and Parcel Services: Data on service delivery would be used to assess the value of certain services to the customer, as well as the creation of new services.

•Neighborhood Services: For carriers on regular routes, IoT data could help increase efficiency and provide a larger view of what services are used in a particular community.


A look at four potential applications — predictive maintenance, fuel management, connected mailboxes and smarter buildings — estimated cost savings for the Postal Service at more than $200 million annually, as well as bringing in an additional $125 million in revenue.

Due to significant privacy and security concerns around any data collected, the IG warned that early pilot programs should focus on proven technologies.

“Use cases in the area of transportation and logistics — such as predictive maintenance for the next generation of delivery vehicles — and smart buildings management would meet these requirements,” according to the report.

Bigger — and riskier — ideas like connected mailboxes could be rolled out through smaller pilots, the IG suggests, limiting broader exposure but allowing the system to scale if successful.

“Although IoPT technologies are still in their early stages of development, the time is right to start experimenting with this technology as a way to create efficiencies, innovate and improve business decision making,” the report concludes. “The Postal Service can start building today an IoPT infrastructure for tomorrow.”



Air Force wants supercomputer to cut through bureaucracy

By Phillip Swarts, Staff writer 8 p.m. EDT August 10, 2015


The Air Force is researching advanced automation systems to combat threats worldwide. Now it wants an automated system to help combat bureaucracy at home.

The service is hoping to develop a supercomputer, a “cognitive thinking machine,” that can analyze vast quantities of data, track cost and benefits, and easily navigate the library of U.S. government codes and regulations, all in an effort to improve the acquisitions process.

“There are thousands of pages of policies, laws, and regulations that affect Air Force acquisitions,” Camron Gorguinpour, director of transformational innovation for the Air Force, said in a statement.

“We need to create a baseline platform and teach the system how to understand context so that it can answer questions accurately and become a resource that personnel can access,” he said. “Of course this is an initial effort; however, over time I expect these types of tools can help people in the Air Force, government and industry better navigate what is a very complex bureaucracy.”

The goal is to create a system that will help military officials and contractors — especially small businesses — navigate the complex world of Defense Department acquisitions.

The Air Force pointed to a 2006 study by the Government Accountability Office, Congress’ top watchdog, which found that “the challenge of operating in accordance with complex federal acquisition regulations discourages small and innovative businesses from partnering with the government in emerging markets.”

The Air Force hopes the new system will be an advanced tool, making it easier for businesses to understand the requirements of a contract and to get any of their questions answered immediately by the computer system.

Applied Research in Acoustics, in Washington, D.C., and KalScott Engineering, in Lawrence, Kansas, won the initial contract in July to build a “natural language query system … to provide users insights into defense contracting statutes, regulations, practices, and policies,” the Air Force said.

The natural language would help users interact more easily with the program, said Suman Saripalli, the owner of KalScott Engineering.

Computers give pre-programmed or formulaic answers, but the project would hopefully create a computer that could more easily present information “how a person would,” Saripalli said.

“Basically the Air Force is looking for a way to make these searches easy and intuitive for people,” he said. “You would ask the system a natural question and it would come back with a natural answer.”

“This would be an application that would allow users, and they could be us in the business community as well as on the government side, to quickly search and mine all this data that’s available in the files,” Saripalli said.

Jason Summers, chief scientist at ARiA, said in a statement that “automation needs to be an enhancement to the experience of a user in performing her job, not a hindrance or a complete substitute for human judgment.”

“Automation is only useful when it earns the trust of the user,” he said. “To do that, it has to do two things. It has to be correct and it has to have a reasonable justification for its judgments.”

The initial program should be up and running by 2018.




“Man-in-the-Cloud” Attacks Leverage Storage Services to Steal Data

By Eduard Kovacs on August 05, 2015

Popular cloud storage services such as Google Drive and Dropbox can be abused by malicious actors in what experts call “Man-in-the-Cloud” (MITC) attacks.


Imperva’s latest Hacker Intelligence Initiative report explains in detail how attackers can easily abuse common file synchronization services for command and control (C&C) communications, endpoint hacking, remote access, and data exfiltration simply by reconfiguring them.

One worrying aspect highlighted by Imperva in its report is that the attackers don’t even need to compromise targeted users’ credentials to gain access to their file synchronization accounts.

Researchers have conducted tests on Microsoft OneDrive, Dropbox, Google Drive, and Box, cloud applications that are utilized by many organizations and their employees to make data available to multiple users and devices.

These solutions work by connecting individual devices to a central hub in the cloud through the same user account. When a file is added to a device’s local repository, it is automatically synchronized with the hub and delivered to other devices.

In an effort to make it easier to manage files, many popular applications don’t require users to enter their account credentials each time synchronization is performed. Instead, authentication to the cloud relies on a synchronization token that is usually stored in a file, a registry, or the Windows Credential Manager on the user’s machine.

The problem, according to experts, is that even though this synchronization token is encrypted on the local device, it can be easily accessed and decrypted by an attacker. Malicious actors can synchronize their own devices with the victim’s account simply by copying this token to the right place on their own system.

Imperva researcher have developed a tool that can manipulate synchronization tokens to allow an attacker to gain access to the victim’s account and implicitly their data. The tool can be delivered to the victim via phishing or drive-by download attacks, experts said.

Once they have access to the victim’s account, attackers can steal the files placed in the sync folder. In addition to stealing information, attackers can also manipulate the files located in this folder (e.g. hold them for ransom by encrypting them, plant malicious code in existing files).

Malicious actors that want to maintain access to the victim’s machine can also set up a backdoor. This can be useful for using the victim’s cloud storage as part of an operation’s C&C infrastructure.

MITC attacks have several advantages. First of all, the synchronization tokens are easy to obtain and, in some cases, the attacker can maintain access to the account even after users change their password. For example, in the case of Dropbox, the tokens are not refreshed or revoked even if the password is changed. Google Drive has a more secure design since changing the password revokes all tokens and requires users to re-authenticate each device using account credentials.

Another advantage of MITC attacks is the fact that malicious code is typically not left running on the targeted machine, and data flows out through a standard, encrypted channel, which makes it less likely to raise any suspicion, experts said. Furthermore, even if the attack is detected, the victim might have to cancel the breached account to keep hackers out.

According to Imperva, attacks based on the architecture described in the company’s report have been spotted in the wild. One example is the Inception Framework analyzed last year by researchers at Blue Coat.

There seems to be an increasing trend in the use of legitimate services by threat actors. Last month, FireEye published a report on HAMMERTOSS, a malicious backdoor leveraged by the Russian group known as APT29. HAMMERTOSS attacks involve the use of Twitter and GitHub for C&C communications, and cloud storage services for data exfiltration.

Imperva advises organizations to mitigate such attacks by using cloud access security broker solutions to identify the compromise of cloud storage accounts, and by deploying database activity monitoring (DAM) and file activity monitoring (FAM) services to identify the abuse of internal data resources.

Imperva’s Hacker Intelligence Initiative report on Man-in-the-Cloud (MITC) attacks is available online in PDF format.



Nuclear nightmare: Industrial control switches need fixing, now

Researchers at Black Hat USA have disclosed critical SCADA/ICS vulnerabilities in switches actively used in industrial control management systems, such as substations, factories, refineries, ports, and other areas of industrial automation.


By Violet Blue for Zero Day | August 5, 2015 — 20:48 GMT (13:48 PDT) | Topic: Security


LAS VEGAS – At Black Hat USA 2015, researchers have disclosed critical vulnerabilities in control switches that are actively used in industrial control management systems, such as substations, factories, refineries, ports, and other areas of industrial automation.

The flaws currently reside in system switches that could facilitate shutdown of a plant or process (such as nuclear-reactor “SCRAM”) or forcing an industrial control system into a unknown and hazardous state (like causing damage to a blast furnace at a steel mill).

Researcher Robert M. Lee,, a co-founder of Dragos Security and active-duty U.S. Air Force Cyber Warfare Operations Officer, said that said that he believed with “great confidence” that these attacks are happening in the wild, but that they were most likely going overlooked because simply, “folks aren’t noticing.”

The researchers described that these industrial management systems can be compromised by a man-in-the-middle (MITM) attack to cause a range of havoc on live processes — sending wrong, spoofed, fake, or incorrect data.

This can cause control systems to send incorrect commands, creating a situation in which the systems don’t know its infrastructure is in dire straits and potentially about to overheat, perform the wrong process, implode, explode, or similarly disastrous outcomes.

The problems rely in the fact that industrial system protocols generally lack authentication or cryptographic integrity; the researchers listed a smorgasbord of attack vectors, including unauthenticated updates, CSS attacks, cleartext passwords, and much more.

Their presentation, “Switches Get Stitches” will focus on the DCS, PCS, ICS & SCADA switches of four vendors: Siemens, GE, Garrettcom, and Opengear.

For their presentation, they’ll be going over eleven vulnerabilities, across five different products families, belonging the four vendors — though the researchers stressed that the problems they’re finding are not limited to these vendors.

Infamous hacker conference DEF CON enters its 23rd year with talks that show you how to fake your death, crack a safe, hack a Tesla, mess with Yubikey, and much more.

The researchers said that they are only showing eleven vulnerabilities because they didn’t have enough time to present more.

These vulnerabilities are being disclosed for the first time today, exclusively at Black Hat.

While the researchers have vulnerabilities have responsibly disclosed to the vendors, SCADA/ICS patching in live environments tends to take 1-3 years — and these fixes need to happen ASAP.

Because of this patching lag, the researchers are providing live mitigations that owners and operators can use immediately to protect themselves.

Researcher Eireann Leverett said they want to dispel the perception that people are helpless in light vulnerabilities, and the notion that we must wait for vendors to save us. “Defense is doable,” he said.

“We shouldn’t have to rely on vendors to patch.”




Defense Stocks Involved in Hacking Scheme

By Andrew Clevenger 6:25 p.m. EDT August 11, 2015


Three major US defense firms were among the victims of an alleged hacking ring based in Ukraine that accessed and leaked press releases to co-conspirators who traded on the information before it became public.

Boeing, Northrop Grumman and Honeywell, all top 20 global defense firms, were among the victims listed in a federal indictment unsealed Monday in New Jersey. The charges accuse a ring of Ukrainian hackers of breaking into the networks of newswires that routinely issue press releases on behalf of big companies, then passing along valuable information to accomplices who made trades based on the not-yet-known announcements.

In some cases, the hackers accessed press releases on PRNewswire, Marketwired and Business Wire’s networks hours before they were issued, according to the indictment. In others, they had the information days ahead of time. Overall, they hacked more than 150,000 press releases and conducted around 1,000 insider trades, prosecutors allege.

“This international scheme is unprecedented in terms of the scope of the hacking, the number of traders, the number of securities traded and profits generated,” said Securities and Exchange Commission Chair Mary Jo White in a prepared statement. “These hackers and traders are charged with reaping more than $100 million in illicit profits by stealing nonpublic information and trading based on that information. That deception ends today as we have exposed their fraudulent scheme and frozen their assets.”

The newswires typically handle press releases for hundreds of companies, many of which contain earnings reports or merger and acquisition announcements that affect a company’s stock price. Other companies alleged to be victims of the scheme include Delta Airlines, Netflix, Home Depot and Texas Instruments.

“We were pleased to learn that the government is prosecuting people alleged to have stolen and misused non-public information relating to a number of companies, including Northrop Grumman. Northrop Grumman takes seriously its obligation to protect non-public information and because of the ongoing legal matter, we have no comment,” said Randy Belote, vice president of strategic communications for Northrop Grumman. Representatives of Boeing and Honeywell also declined to comment.



Boeing shoots down UAV with 2 kW laser

Daniel Wasserbly, Washington, DC – IHS Jane’s Defence Weekly

11 August 2015


Boeing’s Compact Laser Weapon System (CLWS) used a 2 kW laser to disable an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) during Exercise ‘Black Dart’, representatives from Boeing announced on 11 August.

During the 3 August event, the system shot down an airborne UAV at Point Mugu in California by holding the laser beam on the UAV’s tail for 10-15 seconds, David DeYoung, director of Boeing Laser and Electro-Optical Systems, said during a media roundtable.

The two-man portable CLWS also identified and tracked – with a mid-wave infrared sensor – ground and airborne targets from “ranges approaching 40 km” during the event, Boeing announced.



Contractors ask White House to stop regulations

Carten Cordell, Senior Staff Writer 11:08 a.m. EDT August 12, 2015


Four federal trade associations have penned a letter asking the White House to stem the tide of executive orders on contracting.

The Obama administration, in an effort to flank the gridlock on Capitol Hill, have used the executive order to establish regulations regarding federal contracting.

On Tuesday, the presidents of four contracting trade associations asked the White House to stop it.

Presidents from the National Defense Industrial Association, the Aerospace Industries Association, the Professional Services Council and the IT Alliance for Public Sector asked White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough and senior advisor Valerie Jarrett to halt any further executive actions regarding government contracting regulation.

At issue is the effect of compliance costs, which the trade associations said are driving up the cost of business.

“At a time when government budgets are under siege, cost efficiency is essential, and there is a broad agreement about the need for the government to open its aperture to enable access to the full marketplace of capabilities, this rapid growth in compliance requirements is becoming untenable,” the letter said.

The associations noted that since 2009, the Obama Administration has issued 12 executive orders related to federal contracting, creating in 16 new regulations. As a result, letter said that it’s estimated for every federal dollar spent on contracting, 30 cents goes to covering compliance costs.

“We don’t take issue with any of [the regulations], individual companies or associations, but they change substantially the compliance responsibilities for companies,” said Alan Chvotkin, executive vice president and counsel for the Professional Services Council, a trade association for the government technology and professional services industry.

“That increases the cost of performance and ultimately, the charge to the government, for the performance of government contracting.”

Chvotkin noted that an Aug. 5 report in The New York Times said Obama was drafting another executive order compelling contractors to offer employees paid sick leave, prompting the trade associations to pen the letter.

What does that mean for federal agencies looking to hire contractors? It’s going to cost you.


“The impact on the federal agencies is the cost to them, in terms of the direct cost of purchasing the goods and services, as well as the monitoring of contract performance, is going up,” Chvotkin said.

“As we are looking at reduced government spending, reduced budgets and trying to recover in the economy, the last thing our member companies are asking for are more contracting regulations.”

A flurry of executive orders are not uncommon at the tail end of an administration, so much so that Chvotkin said they’ve been known as “Midnight regulations”, but the Obama administration has made federal contracting more of a focus, perhaps because comprehensive legislation has largely stalled in Congress.

Chvotkin said the associations would like to see a full stop in regulations, at least until a new administration can reevaluate the positions and their effect on the federal government.

“This is not [an issue] of whether the executive orders are right or wrong or whether they further policies that companies support or not,” Chvotkin said, “but the burden they pose on both the companies and the acquisition system.”

In the wake of the Times report, Labor Department public affairs officer Dori Henri told Government Executive that there was no confirmation to the proposed order.

“The administration continues to look for ways to strengthen the middle class, and we have long expressed support for expanding access to paid sick and family leave to more workers,” she said. “In the absence of action from Congress on this issue, we continue to explore ways to expand access to paid leave. At this time, no final decisions have been made on specific policy announcements.”


The Legal Problems with Cyber War Are Much Bigger Than You Think

August 5, 2015 By Benjamin Brake

Much of the unchartered territory begins with questions of what it takes to trigger self-defense in cyberspace, and what does it mean for a nation-state to have ‘effective control’ of a hacker?


Claims that technical experts have solved attribution ignore legal challenges that could slow or limit how states might lawfully respond to a major cyberattack. First, a country hit with a major cyberattack would face the novel challenge of persuading allies that the scale and effects of a cyberattack were grave enough to trigger a right to self-defense under the UN Charter. No simple task, given that the UN rules were drawn up seven decades ago by countries seeking to end the scourge of traditional, kinetic warfare. Jurists still debate how self-defense applies in cyberspace and U.S. officials admit building a consensus could be a challenge.

If a victim state does corral a consensus that the right to use force in self-defense has been triggered, a second legal question could compound the attribution challenge even further. Can the actions of a hacker be attributed to a nation-state as a matter of law? Answering this question presents a major legal hurdle if the attack is launched by an ostensibly non-state hacker with murky ties to an adversary government—a growing trend already seen in cyberattacks linked to Russia and Iran.

Legal precedents born out of traditional conflicts and proxy wars suggest the evidentiary burden to attribute the actions of non-state hackers to a state will be substantial. And experiences from recent incidents offer a discouraging preview. It took less than 24 hours for a prominent cybersecurity expert to cast doubt on claims by unnamed U.S. officials that China was behind the breach of OPM‘s networks. Official accounts of Pyongyang’s role in the Sony attack played out similarly, with news outlets featuring competing expert accounts of responsibility—a line-up of suspects that included North Koreans, Russians, hacktivists, cyber criminals, and disgruntled employees.


Old Law in New Battles

In 2013, some of the world’s major cyber powers reached a consensus that law applies in cyberspace, including principles of the law of state responsibility. Attributing conduct to a nation-state under this body of customary international law, however, requires extensive evidence of state control over a hacker—a significant ask of intelligence agencies already burdened with looking out for and mitigating the cyberattacks themselves.

Under the law of state responsibility, a state is accountable for the actions of individuals acting under its “effective control.” Legal scholars debate what “effective control” looks like in practice, but the International Court of Justice has ruled that violations of the law of armed conflict by private individuals can be attributed to a state only if it could be shown the state “directed or enforced” an operation. In a landmark 1986 case, evidence the United States financed, organized, trained, supplied, and equipped the Nicaraguan contras, as well as aided in the selection of targets and planning of contra operations, was not enough to show the United States exercised effective control over the contras. Contra war crimes, it followed, could not be attributed to the United States.

Extending the Nicaragua precedent to cyberspace, a victim of a cyberattack would likely have to prove more than an adversary supplied a cyber weapon to a non-state actor. A victim would instead have to show the state ordered or had “effective control” over all aspects of the cyberattack. Without such evidence, a victim’s lawful response options may be limited to actions against the non-state actors—cold comfort for a nation reeling from a cyberattack perpetrated by hackers financed, organized, trained, supplied, and equipped by a nation-state adversary. The victim state can of course decide for itself whether it has met the burden of proof in its attribution and unilaterally unleash an armed response—attribution, it has been said, is what states make of it—but a desire for international legitimacy could require meeting international law’s significant evidentiary burden before acting in self-defense.


Sovereign Impunity

Together, clearing these two legal thresholds will pose a significant challenge for countries seeking to respond to cyberattacks. Only after both are cleared is a victim endowed with a right to use force in self-defense against an attacker’s armed forces or other military objectives. This double burden could leave a victim state choosing between two bad outcomes: responding with force in a manner deemed illegitimate in the eyes of the international community; or responding with “non-forcible countermeasures” (criminal sanctions or diplomatic measures such as a demarche). Either outcome would lend support to the growing sense of cyberspace as a lawless frontier.

Expert contributors to the Tallinn Manual, an influential treatise on how international law applies to cyber warfare, are attempting to develop a consensus around how the law of state responsibility applies to the use of proxies in cyber operations. But until a shared understanding of state responsibility in cyberspace emerges, governments must themselves push for and enforce—as publicly as possible to ensure their behavior sets responsible precedents—a standard that punishes the use of proxies for cyberattacks and holds countries accountable for the consequences of those attacks. Public attributions, declassification of relevant intelligence, and the responsible use of countermeasures will do far more than tribunals and legal scholars can to shape how we deal with attribution and responsibility in cyberspace.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of the Department of State or the U.S. government.




Unauthorized Drone Reports Soaring Into the Clouds, FAA Says

by Press • 13 August 2015



Airplane and helicopter pilots are being beset by drones, and the Federal Aviation Administration wants them to buzz off.

Pilots’ reports of unmanned aircraft this year have already more than doubled all of the reports filed last year, the FAA said Wednesday — from 238 in all of 2014 to more than 650 from Jan. 1 to Sunday, Aug. 9.

Even worse, firefighters in the West have had to ground their operations several times because unmanned aircraft flew too near them.

“The FAA wants to send out a clear message that operating drones around airplanes and helicopters is dangerous and illegal,” the agency said.

Just in case you don’t get the picture, it added: “Unauthorized operators may be subject to stiff fines and criminal charges, including possible jail time.”

At least 138 pilots have reported spotting drones as high as 10,000 feet, the FAA said. If the FAA gets its way under new rules it proposed in February, no drones would be allowed to fly above 500 feet or over bystanders.

Several times this summer, emergency responders battling wildfires in California have had to ground firefighting planes to ensure pilot safety, commanders said.

In fact, crews battling a 23,000-acre wildfire in the San Bernardino mountains had to ground their planes twice in the same week in June, officials said.

“Losing the ability to utilize these aircraft has a serious impact on the success of the firefighters on the ground,” the incident team said.

Then, on July 19, five private drones forced firefighting aircraft to leave the area of the North fire, which jumped Interstate 15 between Los Angeles and Las Vegas, destroying 18 passenger vehicles and two big rigs as they sat on the freeway.

“We do believe that this affects our firefighting operations,” said Janet Upton, a spokeswoman for the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection. “Any time air operations are halted, that affects our ability to put out these fires.”

The San Bernardino County Board of Supervisors has offered a $75,000 reward for the identities of the drones’ operators.




DISA evaluates SDN to guard mission-critical networks

John Edwards and Eve Keiser, Contributing Writers 5:08 p.m. EDT August 12, 2015


The network is mission critical for members of the defense and intelligence communities. Software-defined networking (SDN), an emerging technology that brings the application and network layers closer together to create an entirely new architecture, is fundamentally changing the way networks are built and configured.

SDN opens the door to greater automation and orchestration of the network fabric and enables the dynamic and application-led configuration of both networks and services. SDN also allows the network to respond to requests from an application in real time, based upon the network’s current state and condition.

The Defense Information Systems Agency is evaluating SDN’s potential to enhance network performance and reliability with three use case studies, said Eric Sharret, vice president of TELEGRID, a Livingston, New Jersey-based company that developed Transec, a device that secures DISA’s SDN Layer 2 data links.

According to Sharret, the first use case is a project focused on core data center (CDC) connectivity via SDN-enabled enclaves. “This use case involves developing a proof-of-concept architecture in the lab and performing the necessary tests in order to evaluate the full benefits of SDN connectivity in the environment,” he said. The second use case is focused on the provisioning and maintenance of service using existing network management protocols and systems. “This use case will study the potential of automated provisioning of service in order to eliminate redundant and unnecessary human and machine interface,” he said. The third use case is focused on increasing the visibility of data flows between multiple domains via SDN.

The results of DISA’s use cases and associated proof-of-concept tests and analyses are expected to determine the ultimate path of SDN deployment. “Creating a SDN between the CDCs, to reduce latency caused by traversing the Joint Regional Security Stacks, will likely be the first target,” Sharret said.


Anticipated benefits

The defense and intelligence communities face a growing need to accelerate the deployment of new networks and applications. “SDN offers the ability to create new networks and apps in software, thus virtualizing and eliminating the slow process of acquisition and deployment of new physical assets,” said Bob Fortna, defense sector vice president for Juniper Networks.

SDN also optimizes network performance and reduces maintenance costs, while helping IT staff better manage network infrastructure by implementing changes quickly and efficiently. “As a result, SDN ensures that the network operates at peak performance,” said Anthony Robbins, federal vice president for Brocade. “With the critical responsibility of serving war fighters, network downtime is not an option, making the flexibility of SDN crucial to defense.”

Security, a major defense concern, has been highlighted as one of SDN’s greatest benefits. “SDN is an attractive proposition to agencies who seek agile delivery of policy based upon behavior or attributes of specific flow types in their networks,” Robbins said. “Organizations can dynamically detect, remediate and log incoming threats without causing network performance degradation.” He noted that SDN also offers greater network visibility, which will enhance existing and future cybersecurity measures.


SDN fits in well with Defense Department plans to deploy network virtualization across the entire organization, including data centers, campus networks and wide area networks, said Michael Worlund, emerging technologies technical director for KEMP Technologies. “They want to segment their network and create trust zones to protect sensitive data and applications, as well as dynamically manage the entire data center from a central platform.” Worlund added that SDN extends the benefits of server virtualization to achieve this goal while also ensuring reliable networking and infrastructure security.

A major benefit of SDN adoption is the consolidation of networks and applications, Fortna said. “SDN will drive network consolidation and therefore reduce our threat exposure,” he said.

Robbins noted that DoD faces the choice of making a gradual transition to SDN or taking advantage of network subscription models that require little upfront investment.


Addressing challenges

Major network infrastructure overhaul is always a challenging task. “Often, agencies are locked in to legacy infrastructure based on proprietary technology,” Robbins said. “To ensure that agencies are able to take advantage of SDN and other innovations in the networking, selecting technologies that utilize open standards is critical.” He said open standards and open APIs allow agencies to operate multivendor networks, reducing vendor lock-in while enabling greater choice among best-in-class solutions and minimizing network complexity.

DoD IT organizations need to begin educating themselves on SDN and how the technology will fit into current operational models, said Craig Hill, distinguished systems engineer for Cisco Systems. He noted that DoD IT staffs also should collaborate with other government and business IT organizations to benefit from the lessons learned in early deployments. “After that, it is important for DoD IT leaders to establish a clear understanding of the top areas [in which] they are challenged and how they can leverage … SDN solutions to address their needs.” He also observed that DoD IT leaders need to first look at solutions that don’t require an entire “forklift upgrade,” and to allow the solution to align with their organization’s natural hardware migration cycle.

“One of the challenges that everyone faces when adopting SDN is employing the resources required to operationalize the change,” said George Josilo, a system engineer with LGS Innovations. He observed that SDN requires experts who have both specialized network experience and programming skills. “It can be helpful to bring in experts early in the process to assist with design, implementation and training.”

Deploying SDN technology is not as much of a challenge as developing the skill levels necessary for network planners, analysts and administrators to do their jobs, Fortna said. “This is an inflection point in the industry, so preparing for the new world will require training employees, consultants and contractors to understand not only the new technology, but how to design, plan, acquire, install, cutover and maintain an SDN architecture as well.”


Mapping out the drone market ecosystem

by Chris McCann • 14 August 2015




After looking into both the VR and IoT space, I wanted to dig in and understand the drone ecosystem and how all of the various players fit together.

Some caveats before we dive into the analysis.

This ecosystem map is not designed to be 100% comprehensive. It’s more to understand all the different spaces within drones.

I am biased towards startups in the space.

If I am missing something tweet me @mccannatron.

This space is developing quickly so take this into consideration.


•    Drones are hard to categorize. The drones (hardware) themselves are multi purpose and can be used as a tool for any function. I categorized them based on how each drone company talked about themselves on their home page (see the areas under “commercial”).

•    It’s interesting to see a few drone companies verticalize and provide the hardware, tools, software, and analysis for a specific market. For example Sky Futures is for oil and gas, Avetics is for film and photography, etc.

•    It’s interesting to see corporations experiment with drones, most notably in the delivery space. This includes Amazon & Alibaba and also the existing shipping companies: DHL and UPS. One report states that a Chinese Shipping company called SF express is already delivering 500 packages a day via drone. (I can’t tell how believable this is).

•    There is a whole ecosystem developing around the hardware of drones including: insurance, fleet management, marketplaces, data analytics for drone data, etc.

•    Once the long range programmable drones hit widespread adoption in the consumer and enterprise sector, this could be the first inflection point. For example this drone pictured below made by Airborne Drones can fly up to 90 min, is programmable, has a range up to 12 miles, and can carry 17 pounds.

Company observations


•    If you are thinking about starting or going into the commercial drone market, I would pay attention to all of the various sub industries within the commercial market. I pulled all of these from the websites of all of the commercial drone companies, on the markets they said they served.

•    Sub industries within Commercial: Agriculture, Construction, Infrastructure, Oil & Gas Utilities, Mining, Inspection, Wildlife, Environment, Humanitarian, Public Safety Mapping, GIS, Surveying, Cinematography, Videography, Advertising, Law Enforcement, and Maritime.


•    From various estimates I have read it looks like DJI has between a 60% and 70% drone marketshare within the consumer space. DJI was reported to have done around $500M in revenue for 2014 and on track to do $1B in sales this year.


•    Skycatch went from a development kit, to adding data capturing, and is now moving into and “aerial maps on demand” marketplace. They are reported to be doing very well, especially in a new market.


•    Very interesting to see the big players in insurance — AIG and StateFarm — trying out drone insurance. I’d pay attention to Skyward.

•    DartDrones is one of the few FAA certified drone flight schools. Depending on the FAA regulations and insurance standards, these types of schools could become important.

OS/Deploy Systems/Data

•    DroneDeploy is an operation system for deploying and controlling drones programmatically. I could see them moving into the space Skycatch is in and start providing more of the full drone imaging stack.

•    I would expect many more companies in the drone data/imaging space once the commercial drone sector starts to take off. Mavrx, DroneData, and AirFusion are just the beginning.


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

Bottom of Form

Friday, August 14, 2015


With Hillary Clinton facing increasing investigative scrutiny, are some big name Democrats poised to enter the race for the 2016 presidential nomination? Joe Biden? Al Gore?

Investigators confirmed this week that Clinton hosted top secret information on her private web server while serving as secretary of State. Most voters think Clinton’s use of a private, non-government provider for her State Department e-mail raises serious national security concerns.

Just 37% of voters trust Clinton, but 78% still believe she is likely to be the next Democratic presidential candidate, with 43% who say it is Very Likely.

How do Democrats feel about Biden these days? Voters think he’d make a better president than Clinton.

Right now, Democrats only have six debates officially scheduled for their presidential candidates. At least two of the candidates – Bernie Sanders and Martin O’Malley – say that’s not enough, arguing that a limited number of debates favors Clinton. Do Democratic voters think six debates are enough?

Government-paid college is sure to become a big issue on the campaign trail now that Clinton has joined Sanders and other senior Democrats in calling for it. Clinton’s New College Compact proposes to make college more affordable through a combination of lower tuition and fees, more state and federal funding and lower student loan interest rates. But who’s going to pay for it?

On the Republican side following the first candidate debate, Carly’s up, Trump’s down. Has ‘The Donald’ peaked?

Even Republican voters are asking themselves about presidential hopeful Jim Gilmore, Jim who?

Trump said recently that he tries to pay as little in taxes as possible, but most Americans insist they want to pay their fair share. The problem is most think they already are paying more than their fair share in taxes.

Job creation and illegal immigration are sure to be big issues throughout the presidential campaign. Many Americans suspect they’re competing for jobs with the growing number of illegal immigrants in this country.

Here’s a tale of two pollsters. Gallup has released a new survey with the headline, “In U.S., 65% Favor Path to Citizenship for Illegal Immigrants.” But the actual question shows that 65% of Americans favor a pathway to citizenship for illegal immigrants “if they meet certain requirements over time.” Unspecified in the question is what those requirements are and the length of time in question.

Rasmussen Reports has found consistently for years that most U.S. voters want the border with Mexico secured to prevent further illegal immigration before there is any talk of amnesty. In May, 63% said gaining control of the border is more important than legalizing the status of undocumented workers already living in the United States, the highest level of support for border control since December 2011.

While protests continue in Ferguson, Missouri one year after the shooting death of black teenager Michael Brown by a white police officer, most Americans have an even more positive view of their local police and don’t consider their crime-fighting tactics out of line.

Americans don’t have much good to say about the latest protests in Ferguson. 
A grand jury chose not to charge the police officer in the shooting.

The U.S. Justice Department subsequently charged the Ferguson police department with a systematic pattern of racial discrimination but also stopped short of charging the police officer. Fifty-six percent (56%) of voters think the Justice Department is more concerned with politics than with making sure justice is done when it decides to investigate a local crime like the Brown shooting.

New Attorney General Loretta Lynch praised the police this week and condemned the violent protests in Ferguson. Lynch has gone out of her way since taking office to adopt a more conciliatory relationship with police officers than her predecessor Eric Holder had. Voters were clear earlier this year that they didn’t want the next attorney general be like Holder.

But then 70% of voters believe the level of crime in low-income inner city communities is a bigger problem in America today than police discrimination against minorities.

Only eight percent (8%) think race relations are better since President Obama’s election in 2008, but unlike most questions dealing with race, blacks and whites don’t disagree much on this one.

The president’s overall job approval ratings remain in the negative mid-teens.

Given the president’s aggressive global warming agenda, voters remain closely divided over what he has in mind for the U.S. coal industry. Most Republicans think he wants to get rid of coal all together.

Fifty-six percent (56%) believe the president’s new plan to limit carbon dioxide emissions from coal-burning power plants will increase energy costs in the United States, and only 33% think it will do a lot to fight global warming.

Voters still put job creation ahead of the fight against global warming and don’t blame their fellow Americans for worrying about the economy first.

In other surveys last week:

— Just 29% of voters think the United States is headed in the right direction.

Voters overwhelmingly believe that Americans are not informed when they go to vote.

When it comes to women’s issues, men and women unsurprisingly hold quite different views. But how much do they really disagree?

Age matters, too, when it comes to the hot-button issues facing the nation.


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