Prepared by the CyberWire (Thursday, February 1, 2018)—Developments in Signals and Space, from January 1st through January 31st, 2018.
False alarms: two within less than a week.
On Saturday, January 13, the Hawaii Emergency Management Agency (HEMA) mistakenly issued a false public warning of a missile attack. Panic and confusion ensued for about forty minutes before the word could be distributed that it was a false alarm, and that no missiles were inbound. The incident is being described as deriving from a combination of a poorly designed user interface (too easy to push the wrong button, the way it always happened to Boris Badenov on Rocky and Bullwinkle), ill-thought-out policies and procedures (the Governor, for example, couldn't tweet out reassurance because he couldn't find the Twitter password, and there was no way for the watchstander who pushed the wrong button to un-push it once he realized his mistake), human error by employees (one of whom, since dismissed, who's said to have a record of poor performance), and, as an overarching cause, the way in which emergency notification systems have failed to stay abreast of the way people now actually communicate online and with social media. A baffled sportscaster covering a golf tournament was observed interrupting his coverage to say that he'd received this alert, but that as far as he could tell there were no missiles falling.
Just three days later, on Tuesday, January 16th, Japan's NHK also issued a false alert that told people to take cover because North Korea may have launched a missile. This mistake was also ascribed to human error on the part of a staffer.
Investigation into the Hawaiian incident continues, but according to the FCC's preliminary results, the alert exercises seem to have been poorly structured drills: no notice, and, while they were preceded by the words "Exercise, Exercise, Exercise," they also included the words "This is no drill" (possibly an homage to the famous signal from Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941). They also occurred around a shift change at the responsible HEMA center, a time when information is notoriously easy to lose track of. Hawaii has suspended drills for the moment and upgraded its procedures, now requiring, apparently, two-person management of alerts, a well-established surety measure long used by nuclear forces.
Both the Hawaiian and Japanese incidents were errors, but it's easy to see why hackers might be interested in this kind of escapade. Motives could range from a basement-dweller doing it for the lulz to a hacktivist seeking to make a point to a nation-state interested in either fomenting mistaken retaliation or simple crying of "wolf" to erode trust in official warnings.
DPRK missile, nuclear, and cyber ambitions continue unabated.
Hawaii and Japan have both been nervous about their uncomfortable position within range of North Korean missiles. The DPRK has continued to rattle weapons at it neighbors, and is now believed to have made swifter progress in their development than the civilized world's intelligence services had expected. Supreme leader Kim said in his New Year's address that he has a nuclear button but would only use it under severe provocation. This hasn't reassured those who are in range, and are accustomed to evaluating threats in terms of capabilities rather than presumed intentions.
What may offer some reassurance are signs that international sanctions appear to be biting Pyongyang harder. The US Director of Central Intelligence says the DPRK is being "strangled," and while that's a strong description, sanctions do appear to have forced North Korea to have cut back planned military exercises dramatically. Pyongyang does plan a parade with many missiles on display for February 8th, the day before the Winter Olympics open in PyeongChang, South Korea.
The DPRK has increased the tempo of its cyber operations recently, but these seem to continue the Lazarus Group's now familiar concentration on cyber crime, robbing banks and cryptocurrency wallets, and mining coin, in an attempt to recoup Pyongyang's struggling finances.
Missile defense system deployments and tests around the world show mixed results: Saudi Arabia is now thought to have failed to intercept missiles fired from Yemen, and testing continues in the US as programs and strategy are reevaluated.
Cyber threats to strategic forces.
Observers in both the US and UK warn that as strategic forces have grown increasingly connected, they're increasingly vulnerable to cyber attack. Their situation resembles that of critical infrastructure, where the attack surface has grown as outmoded and inherently air-gapped systems are upgraded to accommodate modern, networked controls.
India, Japan, demonstrate long-range launch capabilities.
India has tested the Agni-V, a ballistic missile whose 5000 kilometer range qualifies it as an ICBM. Japan's civilian Epsilon launch vehicle is also thought in principle to be adaptable into a strike weapon, although observers view such conversion as unlikely. China is watching developments closely.
Classified Zuma payload apparently lost.
The much-discussed but nonetheless highly classified "Zuma" payload was finally successfully launched by a SpaceX Falcon 9 on January 7th, with the booster returning as designed to Cape Canaveral for reuse. The launch was successful, but the deployment apparently was not. The Zuma payload, whatever it may have been, is generally thought to have either crashed in the Atlantic or to have gone into some undesired and unintended orbit. Zuma did appear in the satellite catalogue (as "USA 280," without further description) but it may have made an orbit or two, then crashed in reentry, or it may still be up there somewhere. The fairing that connected Zuma to the Falcon 9 was built by Northrop Grumman, the launch contractor. SpaceX says the Falcon's performance was "nominal," that is, as expected. Northrop Grumman and SpaceX have quietly grumbled in one another's direction, but a major commercial SpaceX customer, Iridium, has loudly said that whatever happened was probably Northrop Grumman's fault. There is speculation that the fairing holding the payload to the launch vehicle may have failed; such failures have caused payloads to be lost in the past. The Air Force has referred reporters to SpaceX, and SpaceX has said the reporters should ask someone else.
Not much is publicly known about Zuma beyond reports that it was valuable and expensive (paid for by an unknown US agency) and that it was intended for low earth orbit. With all that, the Air Force still seems happy with SpaceX.
Falcon Heavy passes static test, now preparing for first flight.
SpaceX's Falcon Heavy is ready for its first flight. There's talk of SpaceX and Boeing being ready to conduct human-crewed flights as early as this year. The US Department of Defense is said to see the potential for considerable cost savings in Falcon Heavy.
SpaceX isn't the only commercial launch service in the game, either: on January 20th Rocket Lab's Electron vehicle successfully reached orbit, deploying its payload of three micro-satellites. The Electron was launched from Rocket Lab's facility on the Mahia Peninsula of New Zealand.
Militaries increasingly integrate cyber ops into tactical training.
The US Army, Air Force, Norway, and NATO have begun integrated cyber operations into their tactical and operational training. This integration is proceeding much as electronic warfare was earlier given a place in combined arms training. Photographs of US Army cyber operators in the Southern Corridor of the National Training Center at Fort Irwin are evocative: they suggest that such training is now part of brigade and task-force exercises.
DARPA is thinking about robotic craft that could repair satellites in orbit. Chinese R&D programs are mulling ways of using lasers to clean up space junk. Both programs prompt speculation about anti-satellite capabilities quietly forming beneath a dual-use fig leaf. Observers are quick to point out that one country's broom could be used to sweep up others' satellites along with orbital trash, and that a robot repairer could just as easily disable as it could enable.
Groping towards faster, more efficient procurement policies.
Defense procurement authorities in both the US and France resume their perennial efforts to buy space and cyber capabilities more quickly and efficiently. The US effort is given particular point by reports that show a large number of smaller businesses simply exiting the Defense market: that market's uncertainties are said to be more than they can tolerate.
Next Director NSA may be US Army's Nakasone.
The likeliest candidate to replace Admiral Michael Rogers, who's retiring this spring, as Director, US National Security Agency, is rumored to be the Army's Lieutenant General Paul Nakasone. Nakasone has led US Army Cyber Command since late 2016.
Today's edition of the CyberWire reports events affecting China, France, India, Japan, the Democratic Peoples Republic of Korea, the Republic of Korea, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, the United Kingdom, the United States, and Yemen.
CIA: North Korea moving 'ever closer' to putting US at risk(Military Times) CIA Director Mike Pompeo said Tuesday that North Korea is moving “ever closer” to putting Americans at risk and that he believes leader Kim Jong Un won’t rest until he’s able to threaten multiple nuclear attacks against the U.S. at the same time.
Third Burkan-2H missile shows no sign of Saudi intercept(Jane's 360) Two ballistic missiles launched at Riyadh do not appear to have been shot down as claimed. The remnants of the missiles do not show signs of being hit by Patriot interceptors. A Burkan-2H ballistic missile that was shown to a television news team showed no indication it had been ...
Boeing (BA) Wins $115M Deal to Support P-8A Aircraft Program(NASDAQ.com) The Boeing Company BA recently clinched a modification contract worth $115 million. Per the deal the company will provide integrated logistics services and site activation support to the U.S. Navy and the government of Australia for P-8A aircraft. Work related to this deal is scheduled to be over by Sep 2021.
Air Force Eyes Software Task Order Award to Raytheon-Led Cyber Venture(ExecutiveBiz) The U.S. Air Force has announced its plan to award a task order to Forcepoint to provide a software platform for the service’s warrior preparation center. Raytheon operates Forcepoint as a cybersecurity joint venture with investment firm Vista Equity Partners. A FedBizOpps notice posted Monday says the Air Force Europe’s WPC will use the Trusted Thin Client software offering to enable exercise...
Mercury Systems Receives $2.5M Order for Military Storage Application(NASDAQ.com) Mercury Systems, Inc. (NASDAQ:MRCY) (www.mrcy.com) announced it received a $2.5M order from a leading defense prime contractor for custom storage appliances built with the Company's TRRUST-Stor® secure solid-state drive (SSD) devices for an undisclosed military application.
Aegis ashore should be operational in japan in five-years(Aviation Week) A long-anticipated Japanese decision to acquire two U.S. Aegis Ashore systems will offer national coverage against North Korean ballistic missiles but, the government suggests, not until 2022–23. The acquisition will release Japan’s Aegis destroyers for other duties, including protecting islands claimed by China. Aegis Ashore is very similar to the shipborne Aegis system. Both versions are built by Lockheed Martin and use Standard Missile (SM) interceptors, made mainly by ...
Technologies, Techniques, and Standards
Army Takes on Wicked Problems With the Internet of Battlefield Things(Meritalk) The Army’s work on the Internet of Battlefield Things (IoBT) is more than just a way to carve out a catchy name for the proliferation of smartphones, tablets, wearable devices, cameras and embedded devices that take the field with military forces. It also underscores the most important element of having those connected devices–the data collection and automated analytics capabilities required to make good use of the information they provide.
Hainan satellite constellation system provides shield for South China Sea(ECNS) The ChinaRS Geo-informatics Co., Ltd (ChinaRS) of the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS) announced the official launch of the "Hainan No. 1" satellite project on Dec.14, 2017. Hainan will launch its first satellite in 2019 and the Hainan satellite constellation system will be completed within the next four to five years.
Beijing Goes Boldly into Anti-Satellite Weapons Frontier(The Cipher Brief) Bottom Line: China is aggressively pursuing capabilities such as anti-satellite (ASAT) weapons that could diminish the U.S. military’s reconnaissance, navigation and communications in case of war in the South China Sea or on the Korean Peninsula. But while China’s ASAT capabilities threaten U.S. assets in space, it’s still unclear how they fit into Chinese military …
North Korea, Under Sanctions Strain, Dials Back Military Exercises(Wall Street Journal) North Korea’s armed forces have scaled back their annual winter military exercises this year, U.S. officials said, a development they believe reflects pressure from international sanctions on the North’s economy and its military preparedness.
New Army missile defense strategy due out this summer(Army Times) The new strategy will focus on the 2018 to 2028 time frame and will “nest” with the National Defense Strategy, the Army’s operating concept and the service’s new doctrinal concept of multidomain battle.