The Military

US Military To Create Separate Unified Cyber Warfare Command (securityweek.com) 56

wiredmikey quotes a report from SecurityWeek: President Donald Trump has ordered the U.S. military to elevate its cyber warfare operations to a separate command, signaling a new strategic emphasis on electronic and online offensive and defensive operations. "I have directed that United States Cyber Command be elevated to the status of a Unified Combatant Command focused on cyberspace operations," Trump said in a statement Friday. The move would expand the number of the Defense Department's unified combatant commands to 10, putting cyber warfare on an equal footing with the Strategic Command, the Special Operations Command, and regional commands. Until now cyber warfare operations have been run under the umbrella of the National Security Agency, the country's main electronic spying agency, with Admiral Michael Rogers heading both.
Security

How Hackers Are Targeting the Shipping Industry (bbc.com) 46

An anonymous reader shares a report: When staff at CyberKeel investigated email activity at a medium-sized shipping firm, they made a shocking discovery. "Someone had hacked into the systems of the company and planted a small virus," explains co-founder Lars Jensen. "They would then monitor all emails to and from people in the finance department." Whenever one of the firm's fuel suppliers would send an email asking for payment, the virus simply changed the text of the message before it was read, adding a different bank account number. "Several million dollars," says Mr Jensen, were transferred to the hackers before the company cottoned on. After the NotPetya cyber-attack in June, major firms including shipping giant Maersk were badly affected. In fact, Maersk revealed this week that the incident could cost it as much as $300 million in profits. But Mr Jensen has long believed that that the shipping industry needs to protect itself better against hackers -- the fraud case dealt with by CyberKeel was just another example. The firm was launched more than three years ago after Mr Jensen teamed up with business partner Morten Schenk, a former lieutenant in the Danish military who Jensen describes as "one of those guys who could hack almost anything." They wanted to offer penetration testing -- investigative tests of security -- to shipping companies. The initial response they got, however, was far from rosy.
Social Networks

Thai Activist Jailed For the Crime of Sharing an Article on Facebook (eff.org) 118

An anonymous reader shares a report: Thai activist Jatuphat "Pai" Boonpattaraksa was sentenced this week to two and a half years in prison -- for the crime of sharing a BBC article on Facebook. The Thai-language article profiled Thailand's new king and, while thousands of users shared it, only Jutaphat was found to violate Thailand's strict lese majeste laws against insulting, defaming, or threatening the monarchy. The sentence comes after Jatuphat has already spent eight months in detention without bail. During this time, Jatuphat has fought additional charges for violating the Thai military junta's ban on political gatherings and for other activism with Dao Din, an anti-coup group. While in trial in military court, Jatuphat also accepted the Gwangzu Prize for Human Rights. When he was arrested last December, Jatuphat was the first person to be charged with lese majeste since the former King Bhumibol passed away and his son Vajiralongkorn took the throne. (He was not, however, the first to receive a sentence -- this past June saw one of the harshest rulings to date, with one man waiting over a year in jail to be sentenced to 35 years for Facebook posts critical of the royal family.) The conviction, which appears to have singled Jatuphat out among thousands of other Facebook users who shared the article, sends a strong message to other activists and netizens: overbroad laws like lese majeste can and will be used to target those who oppose military rule in Thailand.
Communications

Guam Radio Stations Accidentally Conduct Emergency Alert Amid North Korea Threat (theguardian.com) 50

the_webmaestro writes: A couple of radio stations in Guam conducted an unscheduled test of the Emergency Alert Broadcast System, sending some residents -- already on edge due to the back and forth between the North Korean regime and the tweets made by the President of the United States -- into a panic. From the Guam Homeland Security/Office of Civil Defense Facebook page: "The Offices of Guam Homeland Security and Civil Defense (GHS/OCD), in conjunction with the Mariana Regional Fusion Center (MRFC), our federal and military partners, continue to monitor the recent events surrounding North Korea and their threatening actions. Residents and visitors may have noticed at 12:25 a.m., an unscheduled test of the Emergency Alert Broadcast System (EAS) was triggered from KTWG/KSTO AM. The message read: 'A BROADCAST STATION OR CABLE SYSTEM HAS ISSUED A CIVIL DANGER WARNING FOR THE FOLLOWING COUNTIES/AREAS: Guam, Guam; AT 12:25 AM ON AUG 15, 2017 EFFECTIVE UNTIL 12:40 AM. MESSAGE FROM KTWGKSTO.' The unauthorized test was NOT connected to any emergency, threat or warning. GHS/OCD has worked with KSTO to ensure the human error will not occur again. There is no scheduled test of the EAS or All Hazards Alert Warning System sirens today."

In addition, the Guam Power Authority (GPA) reported there were two scheduled outages, for emergency interruption of power, at 2:30 p.m. and 7 p.m., August 14: "Unrelated to the EAS unauthorized test, the Guam Power Authority (GPA) reported there were two scheduled outages, for emergency interruption of power, at 2:30 p.m. and 7 p.m., August 14 for customers located in Talofofo located along along Rte.17, Chalan J. Kindo, Vicente Borja Dr., Felix Dydasco St., Henry Simpson area to bus shelter by Bishop Street and other customers in these locations."

The Military

Military Tech Could Be Amazon's Secret To Cheap, Non-Refrigerated Food (cnbc.com) 80

According to CNBC, Amazon is exploring a technology first developed for the U.S. military to produce tasty prepared meals that do not need refrigeration, as it looks for new ways to muscle into the $700 billion U.S. grocery business. From the report: The world's biggest online retailer has discussed selling ready-to-eat dishes such as beef stew and a vegetable frittata as soon as next year, officials at the startup firm marketing the technology told Reuters. The dishes would be easy to stockpile and ship because they do not require refrigeration and could be offered quite cheaply compared with take-out from a restaurant. Delivering meals would build on the company's AmazonFresh service, which has been delivering groceries to customers' homes for a decade. It could also complement Amazon's planned $13.7 billion purchase of Whole Foods Market and Amazon's checkout-free convenience store, which is in the test stage.

The pioneering food-prep tech, known as microwave assisted thermal sterilization, or MATS, was developed by researchers at Washington State University, and is being brought to market by a venture-backed startup called 915 Labs, based in Denver. The method involves placing sealed packages of food in pressurized water and heating them with microwaves for several minutes, according to 915 Labs. Unlike traditional processing methods, where packages are in pressure cookers for up to an hour until both bacteria and nutrients are largely gone, the dishes retain their natural flavor and texture, the company said. They also can sit on a shelf for a year, which would make them suitable for Amazon's storage and delivery business model.

AI

Blizzard and DeepMind Turn StarCraft II Into An AI Research Lab (techcrunch.com) 52

Last year, Google's AI subsidiary DeepMind said it was going to work with Starcraft creator Blizzard to turn the strategy game into a proper research environment for AI engineers. Today, they're opening the doors to that environment, with new tools including a machine learning API, a large game replay dataset, an open source DeepMind toolset and more. TechCrunch reports: The new release of the StarCraft II API on the Blizzard side includes a Linux package made to be able to run in the cloud, as well as support for Windows and Mac. It also has support for offline AI vs. AI matches, and those anonymized game replays from actual human players for training up agents, which is starting out at 65,000 complete matches, and will grow to over 500,000 over the course of the next few weeks. StarCraft II is such a useful environment for AI research basically because of how complex and varied the games can be, with multiple open routes to victory for each individual match. Players also have to do many different things simultaneously, including managing and generating resources, as well as commanding military units and deploying defensive structures. Plus, not all information about the game board is available at once, meaning players have to make assumptions and predictions about what the opposition is up to.

It's such a big task, in fact, that DeepMind and Blizzard are including "mini-games" in the release, which break down different subtasks into "manageable chunks," including teaching agents to master tasks like building specific units, gathering resources, or moving around the map. The hope is that compartmentalizing these areas of play will allow testing and comparison of techniques from different researchers on each, along with refinement, before their eventual combination in complex agents that attempt to master the whole game.

The Military

A US Spy Plane Has Been Flying Circles Over Seattle For Days (thedrive.com) 232

turkeydance shares Thursday's report from The Drive: A very unique U.S. Air Force surveillance aircraft has been flying highly defined circles over Seattle and its various suburbs for nine days now... The aircraft, which goes by the callsign "SPUD21" and wears a nondescript flat gray paint job with the only visible markings being a U.S. Air Force serial on its tail, is a CASA CN-235-300 transport aircraft that has been extensively modified... It is covered in a dizzying array of blisters, protrusions, humps and bumps. These include missile approach warning detectors and large fairings on its empennage for buckets of forward-firing decoy flares, as well as both microwave -- the dome antenna behind the wing and flat antenna modification in front of the wing -- and ultra high-frequency satellite communications -- the platter-like antenna behind the dome antenna. A communications intelligence suite also appears to be installed on the aircraft, with the antenna farm on the bottom of its fuselage being a clear indication of such a capability. But what's most interesting is the aircraft's apparent visual intelligence gathering installation...

This particular CN-235, with the serial 96-6042, is one of six that researchers commonly associated with the Air Force's top secret 427th Special Operations Squadron... The 427th occupies the same space with a host of other "black" U.S. military aviation elements, most of which are affiliated to some degree with Joint Special Operations Command and the Intelligence Community... [I]f the military placed the aircraft under civilian control to some degree and with an appropriate legal justification, the U.S. military could possibly fly it in support of a domestic operation or one focused on a foreign suspect or organization operating within the United States... It's also entirely possible, if not probable, that the aircraft could be involved in a realistic training exercise rather than an actual operation... The area could have simply provided a suitable urban area to test existing or new surveillance technologies, too, though this could spark serious privacy concerns if true.

Friday an Air Force Special Operations Command public affairs officer confirmed that the plane was one of theirs, describing its activity as "just a training mission," according to Russia Today.
Censorship

Syrian Open Source Developer Bassel Khartabil Believed Executed (www.cbc.ca) 151

TheSync writes: The Syrian open source developer, blogger, entrepreneur, hackerspace founder, and free culture advocate Bassell Khartabil was swept up in a wave of military arrests in March 2012. A CBC report states that his wife wrote on Facebook late Tuesday that she has received confirmation that security services executed Khartabil in October 2015 after torturing him in prison. Before his arrest, his most recent work included a 3D virtual reconstruction of the ancient city of Palmyra in Syria.
At the time of his arrest, Khartabi was 30 years old -- after which he started a blog called "MeInSyrianJail" and a Twitter account called "Live from my cell." Though he spent the last three and half years of his life in prison, he once tweeted that "Jail is not walls, not the executioner and guards. It is the hidden fear in our hearts that makes us prisoners." The latest tweet on his feed says "Rest in power our friend."

Thursday the Creative Commons nonprofit described the developer as "our friend and colleague," and announced the Bassel Khartabil Memorial Fund, "which will support projects in the spirit of Bassel's work."
Businesses

Wells Fargo Sued Again For Misbilling Car Owners And Veterans (reuters.com) 75

UnknowingFool writes: A new class action lawsuit from a former Wells Fargo customer claimed the bank charged loan customers for auto insurance they did not need. With auto loans, the bank often requires that full coverage auto insurance be bought when the loan is made. However, lead plaintiff Paul Hancock says that Wells Fargo charged him for auto insurance even though he informed them he already had an insurance policy with another company. Wells Fargo also charged him a late fee when he disputed the charge. Wells Fargo does not dispute that it did this to customers and has offered to refund $80 million to 570,000 customers who were charged for insurance. The lawsuit however is to recoup late fees, delinquency charges, and other fees that the refund would not cover.
NPR describes Wells Fargo actually repossessing the car of a man who was "marked as delinquent for not paying this insurance -- which he didn't want or need or even know about." Friday the bank also revealed the number of "potentially unauthorized accounts" from its earlier fake accounts scandal could be much higher than previous estimates -- and that they're now expecting their legal costs to exceed the $3.3 billion they'd already set aside.

And Reuters reports that the bank will also be paying $108 million "to settle a whistleblower lawsuit claiming it charged military veterans hidden fees to refinance their mortgages, and concealed the fees when applying for federal loan guarantees."
Businesses

Tech Leaders Speak Out Against Trump Ban on Transgender Troops (axios.com) 517

Technology executives, including Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and Google CEO Sundar Pichai took to social media to voice their displeasure over President Donald Trump's latest stance on transgendered people in the military.

"I am grateful to the transgender members of the military for their service," Google CEO Sundar Pichai said.
Apple CEO Tim Cook said, "We are indebted to all who serve. Discrimination against anyone holds everyone back."
Brad Smith, Microsoft President and Chief Legal Officer said, "We honor and respect all who serve, including the transgender members of our military."
Salesforce said it "believes in equality for all. We support and thank all U.S. service members, including transgender Americans."
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said, "Everyone should be able to serve their country -- no matter who they are."
Veteran entrepreneur Max Levchin urged support for transgender people across party lines. "Trans kids, soldiers etc need our support today and to know they are valued & respected regardless of politics. Let us not be divided."
Uber told news outlet Axios, "We owe the deepest debt of gratitude to all those who volunteer to serve in the US Armed Forces and defend our values. These patriotic Americans deserve to be honored and respected, not turned away because of who they are."
Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey said, "Discrimination in any form is wrong for all of us."
Government

Donald Trump Says US Military Will Not Allow Transgender People To Serve (theguardian.com) 904

Donald Trump said on Wednesday he would not allow transgender individuals to serve in the US military in any capacity. From a report: The US president tweeted: "After consultation with my Generals and military experts, please be advised that the United States Government will not accept or allow ... transgender individuals to serve in any capacity in the U.S. Military." He added: "Our military must be focused on decisive and overwhelming ... victory and cannot be burdened with the tremendous medical costs and disruption that transgender in the military would entail." Trump's decision marks a sharp reversal of a policy initiated under Barack Obama, in which the Pentagon ended a longtime ban on transgender people from serving openly in the military. As a candidate, Trump cast himself as a supporter of LGBT rights and indicated he would uphold certain Obama-era policies designed to protect transgender people.
Education

US Defense Budget May Help Fund 'Hacking For Defense' Classes At Universities (ieee.org) 34

According to an instructor at Stanford, eight universities in addition to Stanford will offer a Hacking for Defense class this year: Boise State, Columbia, Georgetown, James Madison, the University of California at San Diego, the University of Pittsburgh, the University of Southern California, and the University of Southern Mississippi. IEEE Spectrum reports: The class has spun out Hacking for Diplomacy, Hacking for Energy, and other targeted classes that use the same methodology. The snowballing effort is now poised to get a big push. This month, the U.S. House of Representatives passed an amendment originated by Rep. Dan Lipinski (D-Ill.) to support development of curriculum, best practices, and recruitment materials for the program to the tune of $15 million (a drop in the $700 billion defense budget but a big deal for a university program). In arguing for the amendment, Lipinski said, "Rapid, low-cost technological innovation is what makes Silicon Valley revolutionary, but the DOD hasn't historically had the mechanisms in place to harness this American advantage. Hacking for Defense creates ways for talented scientists and engineers to work alongside veterans, military leaders, and business mentors to innovate solutions that make America safer."
Medicine

Degenerative Brain Disease Found In Nearly All Donated NFL Player Brains, Says Study (npr.org) 213

A new study published Tuesday in the journal American Medical Association found that 110 out of 111 brains of those who played in the NFL had degenerative brain disease chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE). NPR reports: In the study, researchers examined the brains of 202 deceased former football players at all levels. Nearly 88 percent of all the brains, 177, had CTE. Three of 14 who had played only in high school had CTE, 48 of 53 college players, 9 of 14 semiprofessional players, and 7 of 8 Canadian Football League players. CTE was not found in the brains of two who played football before high school. According to the study's senior author, Dr. Ann McKee, "this is by far the largest [study] of individuals who developed CTE that has ever been described. And it only includes individuals who are exposed to head trauma by participation in football." A CTE study several years ago by McKee and her colleagues included football players and athletes from other collision sports such as hockey, soccer and rugby. It also examined the brains of military veterans who had suffered head injuries. The study released Tuesday is the continuation of a study that began eight years ago. In 2015, McKee and fellow researchers at the Department of Veterans Affairs and Boston University published study results revealing 87 of 91 former NFL players had CTE.
Privacy

Sweden Accidentally Leaks Personal Details of Nearly All Citizens (thehackernews.com) 241

An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Hacker News: Swedish media is reporting of a massive data breach in the Swedish Transport Agency (Transportstyrelsen) after the agency mishandled an outsourcing deal with IBM, which led to the leak of the private data about every vehicle in the country, including those used by both police and military. The data breach exposed the names, photos and home addresses of millions of Swedish citizen, including fighter pilots of Swedish air force, members of the military's most secretive units, police suspects, people under the witness relocation program, the weight capacity of all roads and bridges, and much more. The incident is believed to be one of the worst government information security disasters ever.

In 2015, the Swedish Transport Agency hand over IBM an IT maintenance contract to manage its databases and networks. However, the Swedish Transport Agency uploaded IBM's entire database onto cloud servers, which covered details on every vehicle in the country, including police and military registrations, and individuals on witness protection programs. The transport agency then emailed the entire database in messages to marketers that subscribe to it. And what's terrible is that the messages were sent in clear text. When the error was discovered, the transport agency merely thought of sending a new list in another email, asking the subscribers to delete the old list themselves.

The Military

Top US General Warns Against Rogue Killer Robots (thehill.com) 164

Long-time Slashdot reader Zorro quotes The Hill: The second-highest-ranking general in the U.S. military last Tuesday warned lawmakers against equipping the armed forces with autonomous weapons systems... Gen. Paul Selva warned lawmakers that the military should keep "the ethical rules of war in place lest we unleash on humanity a set of robots that we don't know how to control. I don't think it's reasonable for us to put robots in charge of whether or not we take a human life," Selva told the committee.
There's already a Defense Department directive that requires humans in the decision-making process for lethal autonomous weapons systems. But it expires later this year...
The Military

The US Army Wants Distributed Bot Swarms And An 'Internet of Battlefield Things' (defenseone.com) 90

turkeydance shares a new report about the U.S. Army Research Lab: In the coming months, the Lab will fund new programs related to highly (but not fully) autonomous drones and robots that can withstand adversary electronic warfare operations... A second program called the Internet of Battlefield Things seeks to put to military use "the research that's going on in the commercial space" on distributed sensors and Internet-connected devices... One thrust will be equipping drones and other autonomous systems with bigger brains and better networking so that they can function even when an enemy jams their ability to radio back to a human controller for direction... "When you don't have bandwidth, when you're under cyber attack, when you're being jammed. That's the problem we're trying to address."
The lab's director also says they want "as much processing as possible on the node" so it can continue functioning in "contested environments."
The Military

The US And Australia Are Testing Hypersonic Missiles (engadget.com) 100

schwit1 quotes Engadget: Both the U.S. and Australia have confirmed that they recently completed a series of mysterious hypersonic missile tests. All the countries will say is that the flights were successful, and that they represented "significant milestones" in testing everything from the design assembly to the control mechanisms. They won't even say which vehicles were used or how quickly they traveled, although past tests have usually relied on Terrier Orion rockets and have reached speeds as high as Mach 8.

The tests are part of the long-running HIFiRE (Hypersonic International Flight Research Experimentation) program, whose first launch took place way back in 2009. They should help bring hypersonic flight to a "range of applications," according to HIFiRE partner BAE. That could easily include ultra-fast aircraft, but it's widely believed the focus here is on missiles and similar unmanned weapons. A hypersonic missile would fulfill the US military's goal of building a conventional weapon that can strike anywhere within an hour, and it would be virtually impossible to stop using existing missile defenses. In theory, enemy nations wouldn't dare attack if they knew they'd face certain retaliation within minutes.

Originally NASA was involved in the project, which has been ongoing for more than eight years. But it's timeline may have shortened after reports that foreign powers including Russia and China are already building their own hypersonic missiles.
China

Beijing Wants AI To Be Made In China By 2030 (nytimes.com) 170

Reader cdreimer writes: According to a report on The New York Times (may be paywalled, alternative story here): "If Beijing has its way, the future of artificial intelligence will be made in China. The country laid out a development plan on Thursday to become the world leader in A.I. by 2030, aiming to surpass its rivals technologically and build a domestic industry worth almost $150 billion. Released by the State Council, the policy is a statement of intent from the top rungs of China's government: The world's second-largest economy will be investing heavily to ensure its companies, government and military leap to the front of the pack in a technology many think will one day form the basis of computing. The plan comes with China preparing a multibillion-dollar national investment initiative to support "moonshot" projects, start-ups and academic research in A.I., according to two professors who consulted with the government about the effort."
The Military

Navy Unveils First Active Laser Weapon In Persian Gulf (cnn.com) 370

schwit1 shares a report from CNN: In the sometimes hostile waters of the Persian Gulf looms the U.S. Navy's first -- in fact, the world's first -- active laser weapon. The LaWS, an acronym for Laser Weapons System, is not science fiction. It is not experimental. It is deployed on board the USS Ponce amphibious transport ship, ready to be fired at targets today and every day by Capt. Christopher Wells and his crew. It costs "about a dollar a shot" to fire, said Lt. Cale Hughes, laser weapons system officer. LaWS begins with an advantage no other weapon ever invented comes even close to matching. It moves, by definition, at the speed of light. For comparison, that is 50,000 times the speed of an incoming ICBM. For the test, the USS Ponce crew launched the target -- a drone aircraft, a weapon in increasing use by Iran, North Korea, China, Russia and other adversaries. In an instant, the drone's wing lit up, heated to a temperature of thousands of degrees, lethally damaging the aircraft and sending it hurtling down to the sea. "It operates in an invisible part of the electromagnetic spectrum so you don't see the beam, it doesn't make any sound, it's completely silent and it's incredibly effective at what it does," said Hughes.
Security

US To Create the Independent US Cyber Command, Split Off From NSA (pbs.org) 104

An anonymous reader quotes a report from PBS: After months of delay, the Trump administration is finalizing plans to revamp the nation's military command for defensive and offensive cyber operations in hopes of intensifying America's ability to wage cyberwar against the Islamic State group and other foes, according to U.S. officials. Under the plans, U.S. Cyber Command would eventually be split off from the intelligence-focused National Security Agency. The goal, they said, is to give U.S. Cyber Command more autonomy, freeing it from any constraints that stem from working alongside the NSA, which is responsible for monitoring and collecting telephone, internet and other intelligence data from around the world -- a responsibility that can sometimes clash with military operations against enemy forces. Making cyber an independent military command will put the fight in digital space on the same footing as more traditional realms of battle on land, in the air, at sea and in space. The move reflects the escalating threat of cyberattacks and intrusions from other nation states, terrorist groups and hackers, and comes as the U.S. faces ever-widening fears about Russian hacking following Moscow's efforts to meddle in the 2016 American election.

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