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  • Flying up North

    August 15, 2018 | Local, Aerospace

    Flying up North

    By Second Lieutenant Kathleen Soucy The challenges of operating an aircraft in the North are numerous. “The first challenge is, without a doubt, weather,” says Capt Colin Wilkins, a CC-130J Hercules pilot with 436 Transport Squadron, during a planned flight to Canadian Forces Station (CFS) Alert. “Weather can be very unpredictable up North–and change rapidly.” In order to mitigate risks associated with extreme weather conditions, the aircrew follows a “plan procedure for cold weather operations,” said Cpl Yassabi Siwakoti, an aviation technician. This even includes a special procedure to start and shut down the aircraft when it is extremely cold, involving the removal and storage of batteries inside the aircraft. Located 1,834 kilometres north of the Arctic Circle, just 817 kilometres from the North Pole, Canadian Forces Station (CFS) Alert is the most northerly permanently inhabited location in the world. Full Article:

  • MDA president notes opportunities, challenges for Canada’s next role in space

    August 15, 2018 | Local, Aerospace

    MDA president notes opportunities, challenges for Canada’s next role in space

    MDA Press Release Canada’s role and potential involvement in the growing new space economy requires a commitment from the Government of Canada for a new space strategy, the group president of MDA, a Maxar company, said in a speech to the Aerospace, Defence and Security Expo. “The most pressing question is whether Canada will participate, or not, in the international space community’s next big exploration project,” said Mike Greenley, group president of MDA. “The United States, Europe, Japan and Russia are currently planning a return to the Moon in the 2020s. NASA will build a small space station that orbits the Moon, as a base for lunar exploration and as a gateway to explore deeper space. The international community expects Canada to participate in this mission and to provide advanced AI and robotics–our traditional and strategic role.” Greenley said the international community expects and wants Canada to participate. Full Article:

  • Flight simulator's CEO says bigger U.S. armed forces budgets are a boon

    August 15, 2018 | Local, Aerospace

    Flight simulator's CEO says bigger U.S. armed forces budgets are a boon

    MONTREAL – The head of flight simulator company CAE Inc. said Tuesday U.S. President Donald Trump’s appetite for defence spending is a boon to the Montreal-based company, as newfound access to contracts tied to top-secret missions pave the runway for more revenue. “On the defence side, budgets continue to be on the rise worldwide, and in the U.S. they are at historical highs,” president and CEO Marc Parent told shareholders at an annual general meeting Tuesday. On Monday, Trump signed a $716-billion defence spending bill for 2019, an $82-billion increase from 2017 and a dramatic upswing from most Obama-era military budgets. CAE’s acquisition of Virginia-based Alpha-Omega Change Engineering earlier this month opens the hatch to “top-secret missions,” mainly out of the U.S., Parent told reporters. An agreement between the U.S. government and a CAE subsidiary allows a proxy board made up of two American generals and a military contractor executive to oversee the high-security contracts, he said. “That opens up an extra $3 billion of potential market for us. So that brings our total addressable market in the world to $17 billion,” Parent said. As to what the classified missions involve, he said only, “You can speculate all day long.” Parent defended how CAE potentially stands to benefit amidst heightened military spending south of the border, more combative language from the White House and the creation of a new armed services branch focused on fighting wars in space. Full Article:

  • US Navy supercarrier John C. Stennis is headed for a complex overhaul

    August 15, 2018 | International, Naval

    US Navy supercarrier John C. Stennis is headed for a complex overhaul

    By: David B. Larter WASHINGTON — Huntington Ingalls Newport News is gearing up to start a yearslong overhaul of the U.S. Navy carrier John C. Stennis, which is shifting home ports from Washington state to Norfolk to get ready for its break from the rotation. The company announced last week it had inked a $187.5 million contract for advanced planning to support Stennis’ refueling and complex overhaul, or RCOH, slated to begin in 2021. The contract is for “engineering, design, material procurement and fabrication, documentation, resource forecasting, and pre-overhaul inspections,” according to the announcement. In a statement, HII’s head of carrier maintenance said the contract was a critical first step toward getting Stennis started out right. WASHINGTON — Huntington Ingalls Newport News is gearing up to start a yearslong overhaul of the U.S. Navy carrier John C. Stennis, which is shifting home ports from Washington state to Norfolk to get ready for its break from the rotation. The company announced last week it had inked a $187.5 million contract for advanced planning to support Stennis’ refueling and complex overhaul, or RCOH, slated to begin in 2021. The contract is for “engineering, design, material procurement and fabrication, documentation, resource forecasting, and pre-overhaul inspections,” according to the announcement. In a statement, HII’s head of carrier maintenance said the contract was a critical first step toward getting Stennis started out right. Full Article:


    August 14, 2018 | International, C4ISR


    WHEN THE CYBERSECURITY industry warns about the nightmare of hackers causing blackouts, the scenario they describe typically entails an elite team of hackers breaking into the inner sanctum of a power utility to start flipping switches. But one group of researchers has imagined how an entire power grid could be taken down by hacking a less centralized and protected class of targets: home air conditioners and water heaters. Lots of them. At the Usenix Security conference this week, a group of Princeton University security researchers will present a study that considers a little-examined question in power grid cybersecurity: What if hackers attacked not the supply side of the power grid, but the demand side? In a series of simulations, the researchers imagined what might happen if hackers controlled a botnet composed of thousands of silently hacked consumer internet of things devices, particularly power-hungry ones like air conditioners, water heaters, and space heaters. Then they ran a series of software simulations to see how many of those devices an attacker would need to simultaneously hijack to disrupt the stability of the power grid. Their answers point to a disturbing, if not quite yet practical scenario: In a power network large enough to serve an area of 38 million people—a population roughly equal to Canada or California—the researchers estimate that just a one percent bump in demand might be enough to take down the majority of the grid. That demand increase could be created by a botnet as small as a few tens of thousands of hacked electric water heaters or a couple hundred thousand air conditioners. "Power grids are stable as long as supply is equal to demand," says Saleh Soltan, a researcher in Princeton's Department of Electrical Engineering, who led the study. "If you have a very large botnet of IoT devices, you can really manipulate the demand, changing it abruptly, any time you want." The result of that botnet-induced imbalance, Soltan says, could be cascading blackouts. When demand in one part of the grid rapidly increases, it can overload the current on certain power lines, damaging them or more likely triggering devices called protective relays, which turn off the power when they sense dangerous conditions. Switching off those lines puts more load on the remaining ones, potentially leading to a chain reaction. "Fewer lines need to carry the same flows and they get overloaded, so then the next one will be disconnected and the next one," says Soltan. "In the worst case, most or all of them are disconnected, and you have a blackout in most of your grid." Power utility engineers, of course, expertly forecast fluctuations in electric demand on a daily basis. They plan for everything from heat waves that predictably cause spikes in air conditioner usage to the moment at the end of British soap opera episodes when hundreds of thousands of viewers all switch on their tea kettles. But the Princeton researchers' study suggests that hackers could make those demand spikes not only unpredictable, but maliciously timed. The researchers don't actually point to any vulnerabilities in specific household devices, or suggest how exactly they might be hacked. Instead, they start from the premise that a large number of those devices could somehow be compromised and silently controlled by a hacker. That's arguably a realistic assumption, given the myriad vulnerabilities other security researchers and hackers have found in the internet of things. One talk at the Kaspersky Analyst Summit in 2016 described security flaws in air conditioners that could be used to pull off the sort of grid disturbance that the Princeton researchers describe. And real-world malicious hackers have compromised everything from refrigerators to fish tanks. Given that assumption, the researchers ran simulations in power grid software MATPOWER and Power World to determine what sort of botnet would could disrupt what size grid. They ran most of their simulations on models of the Polish power grid from 2004 and 2008, a rare country-sized electrical system whose architecture is described in publicly available records. They found they could cause a cascading blackout of 86 percent of the power lines in the 2008 Poland grid model with just a one percent increase in demand. That would require the equivalent of 210,000 hacked air conditioners, or 42,000 electric water heaters. The notion of an internet of things botnet large enough to pull off one of those attacks isn't entirely farfetched. The Princeton researchers point to the Mirai botnet of 600,000 hacked IoT devices, including security cameras and home routers. That zombie horde hit DNS provider Dyn with an unprecedented denial of service attack in late 2016, taking down a broad collection of websites. Building a botnet of the same size out of more power-hungry IoT devices is probably impossible today, says Ben Miller, a former cybersecurity engineer at electric utility Constellation Energy and now the director of the threat operations center at industrial security firm Dragos. There simply aren't enough high-power smart devices in homes, he says, especially since the entire botnet would have to be within the geographic area of the target electrical grid, not distributed across the world like the Mirai botnet. But as internet-connected air conditioners, heaters, and the smart thermostats that control them increasingly show up in homes for convenience and efficiency, a demand-based attack like the one the Princeton researchers describes could become more practical than one that targets grid operators. "It’s as simple as running a botnet. When a botnet is successful, it can scale by itself. That makes the attack easier," Miller says. "It's really hard to attack all the generation sites on a grid all at once. But with a botnet you could attack all these end user devices at once and have some sort of impact." The Princeton researchers modeled more devious techniques their imaginary IoT botnet might use to mess with power grids, too. They found it was possible to increase demand in one area while decreasing it in another, so that the total load on a system's generators remains constant while the attack overloads certain lines. That could make it even harder for utility operators to figure out the source of the disruption. If a botnet did succeed in taking down a grid, the researchers' models showed it would be even easier to keepit down as operators attempted to bring it back online, triggering smaller scale versions of their attack in the sections or "islands" of the grid that recover first. And smaller scale attacks could force utility operators to pay for expensive backup power supplies, even if they fall short of causing actual blackouts. And the researchers point out that since the source of the demand spikes would be largely hidden from utilities, attackers could simply try them again and again, experimenting until they had the desired effect. The owners of the actual air conditioners and water heaters might notice that their equipment was suddenly behaving strangely. But that still wouldn't immediately be apparent to the target energy utility. "Where do the consumers report it?" asks Princeton's Soltan. "They don’t report it to Con Edison, they report it to the manufacturer of the smart device. But the real impact is on the power system that doesn’t have any of this data." That disconnect represents the root of the security vulnerability that utility operators need to fix, Soltan argues. Just as utilities carefully model heat waves and British tea times and keep a stock of energy in reserve to cover those demands, they now need to account for the number of potentially hackable high-powered devices on their grids, too. As high-power smart-home gadgets multiply, the consequences of IoT insecurity could someday be more than just a haywire thermostat, but entire portions of a country going dark.

  • Pentagon is rethinking its multibillion-dollar relationship with U.S. defense contractors to boost supply chain security

    August 14, 2018 | International, Aerospace, Naval, Land, C4ISR

    Pentagon is rethinking its multibillion-dollar relationship with U.S. defense contractors to boost supply chain security

    By Ellen Nakashima The Pentagon has a new goal aimed at protecting its $100 billion supply chain from foreign theft and sabotage: to base its weapons contract awards on security assessments — not just cost and performance — a move that would mark a fundamental shift in department culture. The goal, based on a strategy called Deliver Uncompromised, comes as U.S. defense firms are increasingly vulnerable to data breaches, a risk highlighted earlier this year by China’s alleged theft of sensitive information related to undersea warfare, and the Pentagon’s decision last year to ban software made by the Russian firm Kaspersky Lab. On Monday, President Trump signed into a law a provision that would bar the federal government from buying equipment from Chinese telecommunications firms Huawei and ZTE Corp., a measure spurred by lawmakers’ concerns about Chinese espionage. “The department is examining ways to designate security as a metric within the acquisition process,” Maj. Audricia Harris, a Pentagon spokeswoman, said in a statement. “Determinations [currently] are based on cost, schedule and performance. The department’s goal is to elevate security to be on par with cost, schedule and performance.” The strategy was written by Mitre Corp., a nonprofit company that runs federally funded research centers, and the firm released a copy of its reportMonday. “The major goal is to move our suppliers, the defense industrial base and the rest of the private sector who contribute to the supply chain, beyond a posture of compliance — to owning the problem with us,” said Chris Nissen, director of asymmetric-threat response at Mitre. Harris said the Pentagon will review Mitre’s recommendations before proceeding. She added that the Department of Defense, working with Congress and industry, “is already advancing to elevate security within the supply chain.” Testifying to Congress in June, Kari Bingen, the Pentagon’s deputy undersecretary for intelligence, said: “We must have confidence that industry is delivering capabilities, technologies and weapon systems that are uncompromised by our adversaries, secure from cradle to grave.” Security should be seen not as a “cost burden,” she told the House Armed Services Committee, “but as a major factor in their competitiveness for U.S. government business.” The new strategy is necessary, officials say, because U.S. adversaries can degrade the military’s battlefield and technological advantage by using “blended operations” — hacking and stealing valuable data, manipulating software to sabotage command and control systems or cause weapons to fail, and potentially inducing a defense firm employee to insert a faulty component or chip into a system. “A modern aircraft may have more than 10 million lines of code,” Mitre’s report said. “Combat systems of all types increasingly employ sensors, actuators and software-activated control devices.” The term “Deliver Uncompromised” grew out of a 2010 meeting of senior counterintelligence policy officials, some of whom lamented that the Defense Department was tolerating contractors repeatedly delivering compromised capabilities to the Pentagon and the intelligence community. Addressing the security issue requires greater participation by counterintelligence agencies, which can detect threats against defense firms, the report said, and ideally, the government should establish a National Supply Chain Intelligence Center to monitor threats and issue warnings to all government agencies. Ultimately, the military’s senior leaders bear responsibility for securing the supply chain and must be held accountable for it, the report said. The Defense Department, although one of the world’s largest equipment purchasers, cannot control all parts of the supplier base. Nonetheless, it has influence over the companies it contracts with as it is the principal source of business for thousands of companies. It can shape behavior through its contracts to enhance supply-chain security, the report said. Legislation will be needed to provide incentives to defense and other private-sector companies to boost security, Mitre said. Congress should pass laws that shield firms from being sued if they share information about their vulnerabilities that could help protect other firms against cyberattacks; or if they are hacked by a foreign adversary despite using advanced cyber­security technologies, the report said. Contractors should be given incentives such as tax breaks to embrace supply chain security, the report suggested. The Department of Homeland Security is addressing the security of the information technology supply chain through its newly established National Risk Management Center. “What we’re saying is you should be looking at what vendors are doing to shore up their cybersecurity practices to protect the supply chain,” said Christopher Krebs, DHS undersecretary for the National Protection and Programs Directorate. The National Counterintelligence and Security Center, an agency of the Office of the Director of National Intelligence that coordinates the government’s counterintelligence strategy, said in a report last month that software-supply-chain infiltration has already threatened critical infrastructure and is poised to endanger other sectors. According to the NCSC, last year “represented a watershed in the reporting of software supply chain” attacks. There were “numerous events involving hackers targeting software supply chains with back doors for cyber espionage, organizational disruption or demonstrable financial impact,” the agency found.

  • Pentagon invites researchers to hack the Marine Corps

    August 14, 2018 | International, C4ISR

    Pentagon invites researchers to hack the Marine Corps

    By: Jessie Bur The Department of Defense kicked off its sixth bug bounty program Aug.12 with Hack the Marine Corps, a challenge focusing on the Corps’ public-facing websites and services. “Hack the Marine Corps allows us to leverage the talents of the global ethical hacker community to take an honest, hard look at our current cybersecurity posture," said Maj.Gen. Matthew Glavy, the head of the U.S. Marine Corps Forces Cyberspace Command, in a news release. “Our Marines need to operate against the best. What we learn from this program will assist the Marine Corps in improving our war-fighting platform, the Marine Corps Enterprise Network. Working with the ethical hacker community provides us with a large return on investment to identify and mitigate current critical vulnerabilities, reduce attack surfaces and minimize future vulnerabilities. It will make us more combat ready.” The DoD launched its first bug bounty, Hack the Pentagon, in May 2016, which was considered one of the first major successes for the then-newly minted Defense Digital Service. Since then the DoD has held bug bounties for the Army, the Air Force, the Air Force again and the Defense Travel System. The combined programs resulted in over 600 resolved vulnerabilities with approximately $500,000 awarded to the ethical hackers participating in the program. “Information security is a challenge unlike any other for our military. Our adversaries are working to exploit networks and cripple our operations without ever firing a weapon," said Chris Lynch, the director of the Defense Digital Service. "Sometimes, the best line of defense is a skilled hacker working together with our men and women in uniform to better secure our systems. We’re excited to see Hack the Pentagon continue to build momentum and bring together nerds who want to make a difference and help protect our nation.” Hack the Marine Corps was launched with HackerOne, which partners with the hacker community to help businesses and government conduct bug bounties, and kicked off with a live hacking event coinciding with the Black Hat USA, DefCon and BSides conferences in Las Vegas. The live hack resulted in 75 unique vulnerability reports and more than $80,000 in awards. “Success in cybersecurity is about harnessing human ingenuity,” said Marten Mickos, CEO at HackerOne. “There is no tool, scanner or software that detects critical security vulnerabilities faster or more completely than hackers. The Marine Corps, one of the most secure organizations in the world, is the latest government agency to benefit from diverse hacker perspectives to protect Americans on and off the battlefield.” The bug bounty program ends Aug. 26.

  • New Spy Drone Flies Non-Stop for a Month

    August 14, 2018 | International, Aerospace

    New Spy Drone Flies Non-Stop for a Month

    Airbus’s Zephyr solar-powered drone flew for 25 days straight during a test-flight over Yuma, Arizona beginning on July 11, 2018. The flight represented a record for aircraft endurance, breaking the previous 14-day record also set by a Zephyr back in 2015. The long flight has big implications for military surveillance. Drones like Zephyr could loiter over a low-intensity battlefield far longer than current drones can do. The latest high-endurance Reaper drone maxes out at 40 hours in the air. The propeller-driven Zephyr belongs to a class of aircraft known as “high-altitude pseudo-satellites,” or HAPs. Flying as high as 70,000 feet for weeks or even months at a time, HAPs perform many of the same missions that low-orbiting satellites do. “The main HAP applications are in telecommunications and remote sensing, both civilian and military,” Flavio Araripe d’Oliveira, Francisco Cristovão Lourenço de Melo and Tessaleno Campos Devezas wrote in a 2016 paper. Compared to comms satellites, HAPs have the advantages of lower latency and the ability to land for maintenance or reconfiguration, d’Oliveira, de Melo and Devezas explained. For surveillance missions, HAPs unlike satellites can linger over a particular area and could produce images with better resolution, since they fly lower than satellites do. HAPs could be more vulnerable to enemy defenses, however. Where satellites orbit many hundreds of miles over Earth, beyond the reach of most conventional weaponry, Zephyr — so far the only HAP undergoing realistic testing — attained a maximum altitude of 70,000 feet, well under the ceiling for modern air-defense missile systems such as the Russian S-300. Also, the drone is slow, with a cruising speed of just 20 miles per hour. Zephyr and similar pseudo-satellite drones could be best-suited for operations over lightly-defended territory. In 2016, the U.K. ministry of defense bought three Zephyrs for around $6 million apiece in order to evaluate them for potential use by the military and other government agencies. “Zephyr is a cutting edge, record-breaking piece of kit that will be capable of gathering constant, reliable information over vast geographical areas at a much greater level of detail than ever before,” then-defense secretary Michael Fallon said in a statement. Airbus is still refining Zephyr, in particular its power-consumption. During daytime, the lightly-built solar-powered drone — which features an 82-foot wingspan and yet weighs just 165 pounds — can fly as high as 70,000 feet while also charging its batteries. After the sun goes down, Zephyr runs on batteries … and slowly loses altitude. During the record-setting Yuma flight, the drone dipped as low as 50,000 feet at night. The challenge for Airbus is to balance weight and power-consumption to produce the optimal flight profile for a particular task. “You have to find the right equation between flying altitude plus battery life, maintaining this or that power,” said Alain Dupiech, an Airbus spokesperson. It’s unclear just how long Zephyr could stay aloft under the right conditions. The drone’s lithium-ion battery eventually dies, forcing it to land for maintenance. But battery technology is advancing rapidly, driven in part by consumer demand for electric cars, d’Oliveira, de Melo and Devezas wrote. In the short term, a maximum endurance of several months is not inconceivable. But longer flights might not be particularly useful for surveillance and comms missions, Dupiech said. “At this stage, most of those missions are not calling for a year and half up there.” Airbus has scheduled Zephyr’s next test flight for October in western Australia.

  • New defense budget bill foresees US-Israel counter-drone cooperation

    August 14, 2018 | International, Aerospace

    New defense budget bill foresees US-Israel counter-drone cooperation

    By: Seth J. Frantzman JERUSALEM — For the first time, the National Defense Authorization Act includes a section on U.S.-Israel cooperation in countering unmanned aerial systems, in the fiscal 2019 version. The cooperation will identify “capability gaps” of the U.S. and Israel in countering UAVs and seek out projects to address those gaps to strengthen U.S. and Israeli security. The new cooperation envisions funding for research and development efforts and identifying costs that foresee close cooperation modeled on previous successful programs that Israel and the U.S. have collaborated on, including missile defense and anti-tunneling initiatives. Israel and the U.S. have been at the forefront of air defense cooperation for decades. U.S. Reps. Charlie Crist and Mike Johnson introduced in February a bill titled “United States-Israel Joint Drone Detection Cooperation Act.” Parts of the bill were included in the NDAA passed in both houses of Congress in July. “I am honored to have our bill included in the NDAA and to see it signed into law by President [Donald] Trump. This is an important step not only for our strongest ally in the Middle East but for the United States as well,” Johnson said in July. The president signed the NDAA into law on the afternoon of Aug. 13. The initiative foresees “joint research and development to counter unmanned aerial vehicles [which] will serve the national security interests of the United States and Israel.” Included as Section 1272 of the final NDAA presented to the president on Aug. 3, the cooperation contains five parts, including identification of the capability gaps that exist, identifying cooperative projects that would address the gaps, assessing the costs of the research and development, and assessing the costs of procuring and fielding the capabilities developed. Reports on the cooperation will be submitted to the congressional defense committees, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and the House Foreign Affairs Committee. The threat of drones has increased in recent years. On Feb. 10 an Iranian-made drone entered Israeli airspace near the northern town of Beit Shean. It had flown from the T4 air base in Syria. Israel identified and tracked the drone from Syria and sent an Apache helicopter to shoot it down. The drone was revealed to be armed with explosives. Former Mossad chief Danny Yatom said in an interview in April that the drone was sophisticated and “an exact replica of the U.S. drone that fell in their territory,” referring to the American RQ-170 Sentinel, which was downed in Iran in 2011. Iran developed two drones based on the Sentinel, one called Shahed 171 and an armed version dubbed Saeqeh, which debuted in 2016. In 2012, Hezbollah used a drone to try to carry out surveillance of the Dimona nuclear reactor in southern Israel. “It’s not the first time and it will not be the last,” warned Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah. Conflict Armament Research reported in March 2017 that kamikaze drones using Iranian technology were being used by Houthi rebels in Yemen against Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. The UAE has sought to bring attention to this threat during the conflict in Yemen, in which a Riyadh-led coalition is fighting the Houthis. Drones were also used by the Islamic State group to attack U.S.-led coalition forces in Syria and Iraq. And Afghan officials reported an Iranian drone entered their airspace in August 2017. In September 2017, Israel used a Patriot missile to down a Hezbollah drone. Israel used Patriotmissiles twice to down Syrian UAVs near the Golan Heights demilitarized zone in July 2018. The U.S. reportedly used an F-15E Eagle to shoot down an Iranian-made Shahed 129 drone in June 2017 in Syria. The drone was heading for the U.S. base at Tanf, which is located in Syria near the Jordanian border. A systematic examination of the emerging drone threat is in the works. The U.S. Defense Department has been allocating resources to counter UAVs, with U.S. Central Command requesting up to $332 million over the next five years for efforts to counter drones. The U.S. Army has been looking for new missiles to defend against a variety of threats, including drones. This will include the Expanded Mission Area Missile and may include other Israel missiles such as the Tamir interceptor for use with a multimission launcher.

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