Plus the latest moves in the Asian Game of Zones. . .
We begin with a drone attack from BBC News:
UK drone carries out first strike in Iraq
The UK carried out its first drone attack on Islamic State militants in Iraq over the weekend, the Ministry of Defence has said.
An RAF Reaper drone was involved in coalition missions near Baiji, the site of Iraq’s largest oil refinery.
The MoD said the drone “successfully attacked” militants who were laying improvised explosive devices.
And from BBC News again, and so it grows:
Islamic State: Egyptian militants pledge loyalty
A jihadist group which has carried out a series of attacks on security forces in Egypt’s Sinai peninsula has pledged allegiance to Islamic State (IS).
Ansar Beit al-Maqdis announced the move on a Twitter account in Arabic, saying IS promised “a new dawn raising the banner of monotheism”.
IS has taken over large parts of conflict-racked Syria and Iraq, declaring a cross-border caliphate.
Ansar Beit al-Maqdis had previously denied allying itself with IS.
Leading us to note with interest this from the Associated Press:
US reviewing democracy work in hostile countries
The State Department said Monday it was reviewing some of its secretive democracy-promotion programs in hostile countries after The Associated Press reported that the nation’s global development agency may effectively end risky undercover work in those environments.
The proposed changes follow an AP investigation this year into work by the U.S. Agency for International Development, which established a Twitter-like service in Cuba and secretly sought to recruit a new generation of dissidents there while hiding ties to the U.S. government. The agency’s proposed changes could move some of that work under America’s diplomatic apparatus.
State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki declined to elaborate on the plan Monday, saying it was “premature” because of ongoing deliberations. “We continue to believe we need to find creative ways to promote positive change in Cuba, but beyond that, we’re still assessing what any change or what any impact would be,” she said.
From the Washington Post, the inevitable:
The Pentagon wants an airborne aircraft carrier to launch drones
In the 2012 movie “The Avengers,” Captain America, the Hulk, Iron Man and the rest of the gang flew on a massive aircraft carrier that carried dozens of planes through the air and disappeared from plain view with the help of a cloaking device. The idea that the U.S. military could develop something similar is still seen as far-fetched, but this much is true: a Pentagon agency has just launched a new effort to develop an airship sure to draw comparisons.
The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency is exploring whether it would be possible to turn an existing plane into a flying fortress capable of launching and recovering numerous drone aircraft. Doing so would extend the range of drones that gather intelligence and perform other missions while saving money and limiting the risks pilots take, DARPA officials said Sunday.
“We want to find ways to make smaller aircraft more effective, and one promising idea is enabling existing large aircraft, with minimal modification, to become ‘aircraft carriers in the sky,’” said Dan Patt a DARPA program manager. “We envision innovative launch and recovery concepts for new [unmanned aerial system] designs that would couple with recent advances in small payload design and collaborative technologies.”
From RT, Persian drones:
Iran test-flies 1st US drone replica
An Iranian copy of a US reconnaissance drone captured in 2011 has carried out its first flight, and the Revolutionary Guards have declared the test a success.
“We promised that a model of RQ-170 would fly in the second half of the year, and this has happened. A film of the flight will be released soon,” Brigadier General Amir Ali Hajizadeh told the IRNA state news agency.
Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei expressed content at the event, describing the day as “sweet and unforgettable” in a video published by the semi-official Tasnim news agency.
RQ-170 Sentinel was seized three years ago after it entered Iranian airspace from neighboring Afghanistan. Tehran says that it managed to reverse-engineer the drone and now can launch its own UAV production.
A video report from Iran’s PressTV:
IRGC says version of captured US spy drone operational
A senior commander of the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps says Iran has made operational a version of the captured US RQ-170 spy drone.
The IRGC’s Aerospace Division Brigadier General Amir-Ali Hajizadeh made the announcement on Monday. He said that a video showing the flight test of the stealth drone will be distributed soon. The RQ-170 Sentinel stealth aircraft was downed by the Iranian armed forces electronic warfare unit in 2011. Tehran had announced that it intended to carry out reverse engineering on the captured aircraft, which is similar in design to a US Air Force B-2 stealth bomber. The drone is one of America’s most advanced spy aircraft.
Drawing closer to Skynet with Aviation Week & Space Technology:
MDA Inches Closer To Launching ‘On Remote’
- Airborne UAV infrared data are key in Aegis BMD test
The most recent Missile Defense Agency (MDA) trial last month for the Aegis ballistic missile defense system is moving the agency closer to proving that airborne infrared sensors can be used to cue a ballistic target intercept.
The agency’s ultimate goal is to integrate the disparate elements of a vast ballistic missile defense system—including satellites, airborne infrared data and ground- and ship-based radars—into a single system of sensors and shooters functioning seamlessly. A product of this architecture would be to “launch on remote” and eventually “engage on remote.”
By launching on remote, an interceptor would be fired at a target based on offboard data—in this case, without the USS John Paul Jones Aegis destroyer’s own SPY-1 S-band radar acquiring the target. Once airborne, the host system, the SPY-1, would acquire the target and aid the interceptor as it heads for a kill.
With engage-on-remote operations, the host system’s sensor never actually acquires the target. Instead, an intercept is achieved using all offboard data piped into the interceptor by way of the Pentagon’s Battle Command and Control, Battle Management and Communications system.
From the Los Angeles Times the Magic National Security Kingdom™:
No-fly zones over Disney parks face new scrutiny
The sky over Disneyland in Anaheim and Walt Disney World in Orlando is “national defense airspace.” Intentionally violating Mickey and Minnie’s airspace, the alerts warn, could result in interception, interrogation and federal prosecution.
These no-fly zones are known as temporary flight restrictions, like the ones that surround the president when he travels or those put in place above Ferguson, Mo., during protests over the summer. Wildfires, air shows and large sporting events regularly get temporary flight restrictions.
Yet there is nothing temporary about the restrictions over the Disney properties. Such limits do not exist over competing theme parks such as Universal Studios or Knott’s Berry Farm.
The Disney restrictions have been in place since 2003, thanks to a provision quietly slipped into a massive congressional spending bill weeks before the Iraq war. Defense and counter-terrorism officials did not appear to ask for the Disney protections, which were instead urged by at least one Disney lobbyist, according to an Orlando Sentinel investigation in 2003.
From the ACLU Blog of Rights, a common language:
British Spying Is Our Problem, Too
The chilling effect of surveillance may be spreading across the Atlantic.
We learned last week that GCHQ – the U.K. equivalent of the NSA – permits its employees to target the communications of journalists and lawyers. That revelation has serious implications for the work of both groups.
American surveillance is already impacting the work of U.S.-based journalists and lawyers. As the ACLU and Human Rights Watch documented in a recent report, the effects are not pretty. National security and intelligence journalists have been struggling to develop and maintain relationships with increasingly skittish sources, and lawyers are losing the freedom to communicate with clients, co-counsel, and witnesses without exposing confidential information to the government.
We depend on the press to keep us informed, helping ensure the government’s accountability to the governed. But when journalists are vulnerable to surveillance, that accountability suffers.
Attorneys are also indispensable, and their right to communicate privately with clients has long been recognized both in domestic and international law. When attorneys can’t communicate freely with clients, they can’t build trust or develop strategy. That weakens important due process rights and diminishes our confidence in the verdicts issued by our justice system.
German hackery from TheLocal.de:
BND to hire hackers to check shopping carts
Update: Germany’s foreign intelligence agency plans to spend millions to penetrate the secure connection technologies used by social networks, banks and online shops.
The Sueddeutsche Zeitung (SZ) reported on Monday that the Bundesnachrichtendienst (BND) will spend €28 million in 2015 on its ‘Strategic Technical Initiative” (SIT).
A confidential report seen by the newspaper showed that spies have asked a parliamentary oversight committee for a total of €300 million for the SIT programme between 2015 and 2020. Over €6 million has already been spent in 2014 laying the groundwork.
They say that the aim of the programme is to penetrate foreign social networks and create an early warning system for cyber attacks.
Hackers go postal, via the New York Times:
Postal Service Discloses Major Data Theft
The Postal Service on Monday became the latest government agency to announce a major theft of data from its computer systems, telling its roughly 800,000 employees and retirees that an attack “potentially compromised” databases containing postal employees’ names, birth dates, addresses and Social Security numbers.
The announcement came just weeks after the White House disclosed an intrusion into its unclassified computer systems, which resulted in a shutdown of some of its communications while the malicious software was being removed.
The working assumption at the White House was that its troubles were caused by Russian hackers; the Postal Service attack, by contrast, seemed to have the signature of Chinese hackers. But attributing attacks is difficult, and first indications are frequently inaccurate.
From the Guardian, the Oops Factor:
Efforts to protect US government data against hackers undermined by worker mistakes
- Reports show that hacking and cybercrime swamp federal agencies as US struggles to keep pace with international groups of hackers
A $10bn-a-year effort to protect sensitive government data, from military secrets to social security numbers, is struggling to keep pace with an increasing number of cyberattacks and is unwittingly being undermined by federal employees and contractors.
Workers scattered across more than a dozen agencies, from the defense and education departments to the National Weather Service, are responsible for at least half of the federal cyberincidents reported each year since 2010, according to an Associated Press analysis of records.
They have clicked links in bogus phishing emails, opened malware-laden websites and been tricked by scammers into sharing information.
One was redirected to a hostile site after connecting to a video of tennis star Serena Williams. A few act intentionally, most famously former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden, who downloaded and leaked documents revealing the government’s collection of phone and email records.
Upscale hostelry hostility from the Kaspersky Lab:
Kaspersky Lab sheds light on “Darkhotels”, where business executives fall prey to an elite spying crew
Kaspersky Lab’s Global Research and Analysis Team experts researched the “Darkhotel” espionage campaign, which has lurked in the shadows for at least four years while stealing sensitive data from selected corporate executives travelling abroad. “Darkhotel” hits its targets while they are staying in luxury hotels. The crew never goes after the same target twice; they perform operations with surgical precision, getting all the valuable data they can from the first contact, deleting traces of their work and melting into the background to await the next high profile individual. The most recent travelling targets include top executives from the US and Asia doing business and investing in the APAC region: CEOs, senior vice presidents, sales and marketing directors and top R&D staff have all been targeted. Who will be next? This threat actor is still active, Kaspersky Lab warns.
The Darkhotel actor maintains an effective intrusion set on hotel networks, providing ample access over the years, even to systems that were believed to be private and secure. They wait until, after check-in, the victim connects to the hotel Wi-Fi network, submitting his room number and surname at the login. The attackers see him in the compromised network and trick him into downloading and installing a backdoor that pretends to be an update for legitimate software – Google Toolbar, Adobe Flash or Windows Messenger. The unsuspecting executive downloads this hotel “welcome package”, only to infect his machine with a backdoor, Darkhotel’s spying software.
Once on a system, the backdoor has been and may be used to further download more advanced stealing tools: a digitally-signed advanced keylogger, the Trojan ‘Karba’ and an information-stealing module. These tools collect data about the system and the anti-malware software installed on it, steal all keystrokes, and hunt for cached passwords in Firefox, Chrome and Internet Explorer; Gmail Notifier, Twitter, Facebook, Yahoo! and Google login credentials; and other private information. Victims lose sensitive information – likely the intellectual property of the business entities they represent. After the operation, the attackers carefully delete their tools from the hotel network and go back into hiding.
After the jump, cops in Canada acting like cops below the border, Spanish schismatics, Germans shut down a Far Right protest, a CNN shutdown in Moscow, a U.N. investigation of lethal Israeli attacks on U.N. facilities, a ghost from the past returns, Iran makes a conciliatory nuclear more, a move towards an Aussie/Japanese military alliance, Abe and Xi, not sittin’ in a tree, a Beijing twist, and another olive branch form Tokyo, Japanese-Koreans protest inflammatory racism, and Japan launches a naval buildup. . . Continue reading