Prepared by the CyberWire (Friday, July 7, 2017)—June was marked by bad news (especially North Korean intransigence with respect to its nuclear and ballistic missile programs) and good news (especially the routinization of commercial launch services). All of the news has implications for cybersecurity.
Pyongyang remains as determined as ever to threaten its enemies (now, effectively, the entire world).
North Korean continued its ballistic missile program in the face of essentially universal condemnation and effective economic sanctions. Their missiles have now demonstrated the ability to reach Japan at least, and there are early reports of systems under development that could strike targets in the United States. China, the US, Japan, and South Korea are all engaged in various bilateral programs to put a stop to this, including movement of a US Navy battle group into the area, Sino-US talks about a common approach to the problem, and accelerated development of a Japanese missile defense system (including Aegis ashore).
Pyongyang so far shows few signs of dissuasion. A recent and very disturbing development is evidence of a DPRK domestic tritium production capability, tritium being essential to the development of fusion weapons ("hydrogen bombs").
The DPRK has also been active in cyberspace, as cyber operations become a normal mode of conflict. Consensus among observers is that the Pyongyang-run Lazarus Group was responsible for May's WannaCry ransomware outbreak. Evidence to the contrary consists largely of signs that the coding was in certain respects incompetent, and so, on grounds of a priori probability, "the North Koreans are better than that." Not necessarily.
The US has deployed a Terminal High Altitude Air Defense (THAAD) battery to the Republic of Korea as a counter to the North's ballistic missiles. After some controversy over consultation, Seoul has announced that THAAD will stay in theater. The Army deployed a cyber protection team along with it, lest THAAD become a "hack magnet" for Pyongyang. Recent tests of US anti-missile capability have shown mixed results: a ground-based interceptor the Missile Defense Agency launched from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California successfully destroyed an ICBM target on May 30th, but on June 21st, elsewhere on the Pacific Missile Range, a test shot of an SM-3 Block IIA interceptor from USS John Paul Jones failed to bring down its medium-range ballistic missile target. Such misses are inevitable, and the Department of Defense remains confident that the Army's THAAD and the Navy's Aegis constitute reliable defenses.
Congress is pushing for more rapid fielding of missile defenses for the state of Hawaii, the densely populated region closest to North Korea. Congress is also asking the Department of Defense to look into space-based missile defense systems.
The lingering risk of Windows XP.
In the UK, critics again raise the possibility that the Royal Navy's Trident missile submarines are unnecessarily susceptible to hacking because they continue to use beyond-end-of-life versions of the Windows operating system. Its not just the veteran missile boats, either: critics also claim the newest, largest British warship, the aircraft carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth, is also hooked on XP. Reporters noticed the old OS in use on shipboard systems during a tour the Navy gave them to show off its most impressive warship. The Ministry of Defense says XP will be gone before the carrier enters service.
In fairness to Her Majesty's tars and jollies, it's no trivial matter to expunge old versions of Windows from Internet-of-things systems. It isn't as simple as replacing or patching Windows on, say, a PC: the OS as its used has been customized by the industrial control system vendor, and it has many interactions and dependencies that simply aren't present in ordinary Windows software.
On the other hand failure to patch and upgrade can have severe effects. Microsoft took the unusual and controversial step of reaching back into the grave with patches for retired versions of Windows in the hope of mitigating the effects of malware like WannaCry. But even that extraordinary move wasn't enough: on June 27th a version of the old Petya ransomware, upgraded with worm functionality and redesigned to use the leaked EternalBlue exploit, tore through Ukrainian government, utility, and financial sites, and then spread rapidly throughout the world. Petya, like WannaCry, may be ransomware, but it threatens the IoT as well.
SpaceX has a very good month.
The private launch service succeeded in turning around reusable launch vehicles rapidly in June. On June 3rd a Falcon 9 successfully put a payload into orbit; the launch took place just two days after that particular launch vehicle returned from its previous mission. SpaceX looks enough like the real deal that the US Air Force will entrust it with the X-35B spaceplane: the company is now accepted as reliable and cost-effective.
India is preparing its own launch capability.
Space agencies and space equities.
Congress is talking about establishing a "Space Corps," but the US Air Force says that's unnecessary, that they can handle matters themselves, thanks very much.
The US Department of Defense is pushing forward with accelerated, streamlined acquisition vehicles for cyber tools and solutions. Both the Air Force and the Army are working to embed cyber considerations in their system development cycles.
Not all policy news is directed at conflict. Australia is considering establishing its own domestic space agency. And on the last day of June President Trump signed an Executive Order reinstating the National Space Council, with a view to shaping policy and modernizing the US approach to spaceflight.
Research and aspirations.
As quantum encryption is demonstrated over increasingly long distances, researchers work toward a space-based quantum encryption system.
Taking a page from the pirate, aspiring state of Sealandia, ensconced with more brass than legal authority in an old off-shore Maunsell Sea Fort, a group announces plans for "Asgardia," a data-sovereign enclave somewhere in earth orbit. Few expect anything to come of this, but there have been more serious proposals to put data in space (c.f. SpaceBelt) where they would presumably be beyond the reach of terrestrial jurisdictions.
Today's edition of the CyberWire reports events affecting Canada, China, Israel, Japan, the Democratic Peoples Republic of Korea, the Republic of Korea, the United Kingdom, and the United States.
Information Warfare: THAAD The Hack Attack Magnet(Strategy Page) In May 2017 the United States revealed that it had sent one of its few cyber protection teams to defend the THAAD (Terminal High Altitude Area Defense) battery sent to South Korea earlier and declared operational in April.
Re-entry vehicle last-remaining question for N.K. ICBM: U.S. expert(Yonhap News Agency) Building a nuclear warhead and a re-entry vehicle durable enough to withstand the extreme heat during a missile's re-entry into the atmosphere is the last-remaining major question North Korea faces in developing a nuclear-tipped intercontinental ballistic missile, a U.S. expert said.
Britain's nuclear submarines vulnerable to 'catastrophic' cyber attack that could spark nuclear warn, experts warn(The Independent) The UK’s nuclear submarines are vulnerable to a “catastrophic” cyber-attack that could potentially spark a nuclear war, a think tank has warned. The report, titled “Hacking UK Trident: A Growing Threat” and published by the British American Security Information Council (Basic), said such an attack could “neutralise operations, lead to loss of life, defeat or perhaps even the catastrophic exchange of nuclear warheads (directly or indirectly)”.
Hacking UK Trident: A Growing Threat(British American Information Security Council) This paper reviews the growing potential for cyber-attack on the UK’s operational fleet of Vanguard-class submarines armed with nuclear-tipped Trident II D-5 ballistic missiles, and some of the implications for strategic stability.
Defence Secretary refuses to deny nuclear submarines run outdated system exploited by hackers(The Independent) Defence Secretary Michael Fallon has refused to deny that Britain’s nuclear submarines use the outdated Windows XP program amid the ongoing WannaCry ransomware attack. Instead he simply insisted the subs were “safe”, adding that they operated “in isolation” when out on patrol, which possibly suggests the vessels at sea were unaffected only because they were not connected to the internet.
Ready or not, IoT third party risks are here(Help Net Security) Ready or not, IoT third party risks are here. Our cyber climate is evolving and organizations have to shift their focus to the security of external parties.
Classified satellite deal goes to Kratos(C4ISRNET) The contract, with the company's Modular System Division, is for what a Kratos news release only described as "U.S. national security-related customers."
Harris awarded NGA software contract(C4ISRNET) The software "will allow intelligence officials to provide more timely and accurate support to warfighters and the national security community," the company said.
Raytheon's Space and Airborne Systems Awarded $42.8M Deal(NASDAQ.com) Raytheon Company 's RTN Space and Airborne Systems Division has won a $42.8 million contract for production of Identification Friend-or-Foe (IFF) KIV-77 Mode 4/5 cryptographic appliqué computers. Per the terms, the work will be carried out at Largo, FL and is expected to be completed by June 8, 2022.
Small Business Grows Within DISA(SIGNAL Magazine) The very qualities that define small businesses—agility, flexibility, inherent innovation—are driving the Defense Information Systems Agency to increase its efforts to bring those capabilities under the big tent of defense network services.
PARIS: Horizon demonstrates FlyingFish for monitoring satellite phone signals(Flightglobal.com) Horizon Technologies is promoting its FlyingFish airborne satellite monitoring system for monitoring of satellite phone signals for humanitarian, search and rescue and law enforcement/anti-terrorism purposes. FlyingFish can be used to turn a wide range of aircraft into signals intelligence (SIGINT) collection platforms.
Lockheed's Thaad Production Was Quietly Halted for Four Months(Bloomberg.com) Production of Lockheed Martin Corp.’s Thaad -- the U.S. missile interceptor that’s spawned an international dispute with its deployment in South Korea -- was quietly halted for about four months last year because of a quality problem with a part.
Pentagon upgrades assessment of ability to defend against ICBMs(Reuters) After a successful May test, the Pentagon has upgraded its assessment of its ability to defend the United States against incoming intercontinental ballistic missiles, like the ones North Korea is attempting to develop, according to a memo seen by Reuters on Wednesday.
US test of ICBM defense successful(Defense News) The U.S. Missile Defense Agency successfully intercepted an intercontinental ballistic missile target during a May 30, 2017, test of the nation's ballistic missile defense system. (Leah Garton/U.S. Missile Defense Agency)
Increasingly sophisticated test plans for US homeland missile defense system on horizon(Defense News) On the heels of a successful intercept test of its homeland missile defense system against an intercontinental ballistic missile target, Missile Defense Agency Director Vice Adm. Jim Syring detailed plans to continue to challenge the system to ensure it is ready to go up against threats from North Korea and Iran, not just now, but against what is anticipated in the future.
Foreign minister says Seoul has no plan to reverse THAAD deployment(Yonhap News Agency) Yonhap news articles produced by building a network covering domestic supplies in various newspapers, broadcasting and government departments, major institutions, major corporations, media, K-Pop, K-Wave, Hallyu, Korean Wave, Korean pop, Korean pop culture, Korean culture, Korean idol, Korean movies, Internet media and international agreements of the Republic of Korea.
North Korea a top priority, says new US ambassador to China(South China Morning Post) The new US ambassador to China has said that stopping the threat posed by North Korea will be a top priority, along with resolving the US-China trade imbalance, according to a video message to the Chinese people released on Monday....
House lawmakers want space-based missile defense strategy(Defense News) House lawmakers want the Pentagon to quickly produce a space-based missile defense strategy, according to the Armed Services Strategic Forces Subcommittee’s mark of the fiscal year 2018 defense authorization bill released this week.
NATO Could Go To War Over A Cyber Attack(The Daily Caller) The North Atlantic Treaty Organization would consider a large enough cyber attack against one member an attack on them all, according to NATO officials. A persistent and devastating attack could tr
NATO to beef up cyber capabilities(Defense News) The development of NATO defensive and offensive cyber weaponry is tasked to the Western alliance’s dedicated cyber unit, which forms part of NATO’s Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe.
OMB tells agency leaders how to meet cyber executive order(Fifth Domain | Cyber) An Office of Budget and Management memo released in the wake of President Trump’s May 11 “Strengthening the Cybersecurity of Federal Networks and Critical Infrastructure” executive order lays out deadlines and and implementation guidance on required agency cybersecurity reporting.
Time for an Aussie space agency?(InnovationsAus.com) There are growing calls from founders and entrepreneurs for the Australian government to establish a centralised space agency to support the burgeoning local industry.