Showing posts with label Countermeasures. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Countermeasures. Show all posts

October 11, 2016

On the Lookout To Managing Risk

So risk management is one of the most important skills for leadership. 

Risk is a function of threats, vulnerabilities, probabilities, and countermeasures. 

If we don't manage risk by mitigating it, avoiding it, accepting it, or transferring it, we "risk" being overcome by the potentially catastrophic losses from it.

My father used to teach me when it comes to managing the risks in this world that "You can't have enough eyes!"

And that, "If you don't open your eyes, you open your wallet."

This is a truly good sound advice when it comes to risk management and I still follow it today. 

Essentially, it is always critical to have a backup or backout plan for contingencies.

Plan A, B, and C keeps us from being left in the proverbial dark when faced with challenge and crisis. 

In enterprise architecture, I often teach of how if you fail to plan, you might as well plan to fail. 

This is truth--so keep your eyes wide open and manage risks and not just hide your head in the sand of endless and foolhardy optimism for dummies. ;-)

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
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July 26, 2014

Antimissile System for Airlines


Elbit Systems has an antimissile system that can protect commercial airlines from short range, shoulder fired missiles (MANPADs).

The military air fleet of the U.S., U.K., and Australia already have installed such devices to protect them.

Another system by Northrop Grumman is installed for heads of state like on Air Force One and Germany has ordered it for their Chancellor's plane. 

But the Elbit C-Music is being used already on Israel's commercial airlines, El AL and Israir. 

The thermal targeting device of C-Music uses a precise laser to deflect the incoming heat seeking ground to air missiles and save the passengers and plane. 

According to the Wall Street Journal, a bill to mandate such devices for American commercial airlines would cost approximately $43 billion over 20 years. 

While this system would not work against the type of sophisticated multiple launch rocket systems that brought down Malaysia Airlines Flight 17, it would go along way to enhance our anti-terrorism measures and protect Americans and other travelers coming to/from the U.S. 

Please don't shoot down this idea...  ;-)
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September 24, 2013

Cancel Out Those Tremors


This is a wonderful new product available from Lift Labs.

It is a spoon for people that suffer from hand tremors, like those from Parkinson's Disease. 

With tremors, a person has trouble lifting the spoon to their mouth and doing it without spilling.

With Lifeware, the tremors are said to be reduced in trials by 70%!

The spoon is battery operated and it has sensors for the tremors and performs countermeasures to stabilize itself. 

It does this with technology including an accelerometer and microprocessor to actively cancel out the tremor. 

In the future, additional attachments are forecasted, including a folk, keyholder, and more. 

The special device was made possible through a grant under the NIH Small Business Innovation Research Program.

An awesome advance for Parkinson's patients to be more self-sufficient and live with dignity despite such a debilitating illness.

Thank you to the engineers at Life Labs (and to the NIH) for bringing this stabilization technology to those who really can benefit from it.
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February 10, 2013

The Anti-Drone Drone


Last week Fox News reported on how the British were deploying tiny drones that can now fit in the palm of one's hand. The Black Hornet Nano is only 4 inches long, weighs about half an ounce, and carries a camera that can take stills and video and transmit them back to a remote terminal. 

Drones are becoming ubiquitous weapons of war, homeland security, law enforcement and more. 


As other nations advance their drone programs, our efforts must not only be offensively, but also defensive--The Guardian reported (22 April 2012) that Iran has already claimed to have reverse engineered the Sentinel drone they captured in 2011 and are making a copy of it--lending some credence to this perhaps, this past week, they also showed surveillance footage that they claim came from the captured drone. 


So how do you protect against drones-big and small?


While you can lock on and shoot down a big Predator drone out of the sky, drones as small as tiny bugs are going to be a lot harder to defend against. 


The bug-like drones may not only carry surveillance equipment in the future, but could even carry a lethal injection, chemical or biological agents to disable or kill, or perhaps even weapons of mass destruction. 


Moreover, they may not attack onsies-twosies, but in mass swarms like locusts ready to swoop down and destroy our crops, our lines of communications, and all sort of critical infrastructure. 


The Atlantic (6 Feb. 2013) describes the idea for a "Drone-Proof City" of the future that someone came up with for an extreme architecture class. 


Like cities in World War II that camouflaged entire sections with green military netting and other subterfuges, the idea here would be to create a "sanctuary" or "compound" that would provide a safe-zone from drones. 


Whether using tall Minarets, cooling towers, other high-rise buildings and even window grills to obstruct the drones, or a "latticed roof" to create distracting shade patterns, or a climate-controlled city interior that could confuse heat-seeking missiles--all good ideas are welcome. 


Of course, their are other options too such as anti-drone laser system that could shoot them down, electronic countermeasures that could confuse, self-destruct, or other take control of them, or even anti-drone drones--that would be specialized drones that could seek and destroy enemy drones in waiting or about to attack. 


Drones everywhere--and nowhere to hide--we will need some extreme architecture to take out these buggers. ;-)


(Source Photo: here with attribution to Ars Electronica)

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February 2, 2013

This Tape Will Self Destruct In Five Seconds


Ever since the 1960's airing of Mission Impossible, where each episode started with the instructions for a dangerous mission on a tape recording, which ended with "This tape will self-destruct in five seconds," have we all recognized the need for self-destructing devices to safeguard information. 

This message has been honed over the last three decades with compromising security incidents:

1979: Iranian demonstrators stormed the U.S. Embassy in Tehran and according to UMBC "the incinerator broke" as personnel tried to destroy sensitive documents and they had to revert to shredding. 

2001: A Chinese J-8 fighter aircraft collided with a EP-3 U.S. Intel aircraft which according to CNN was "likely equipped with highly sensitive equipment" and landed on the Chinese island of Hainan providing China the opportunity to board, disassemble, and study the equipment before it was returned three months later. 

2011: Iran captured an RQ-170 Sentinel Drone and USA Todayreported on Iran's claims that "all files and boards of the drone were copied and used to improve Iran's unmanned aircraft." Also in 2011 in the assault on Osama Bin Laden, a secret stealth helicopter that took a hard-landing had to be destroyed before special forces pulled out--however according to the New York Times, "a surviving tail section reveal modifications to muffle noise and reduce the chances of detection by radar" was left behind providing others the opportunity to learn about our sensitive technologies.

Additionally, as ever more advanced technology continues to enter the battlefield the threat of its capture and exploitation becomes increasingly concerning. 
In this context, Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) announced the start up of a new program on 28 January 2013 called Vanishing Programmable Resources (VAPR).

VAPR is intent on developing technologies for "transient electronics...capable of dissolving into the environment around them."

The goal is that "once triggered to dissolve, the electronics would be useless to any enemy that comes across them."

According to Armed Forces International, along with the destruction of the electronics would be "taking classified data with it." Thereby preventing the enemy from using captured information to develop countermeasures or reverse engineer their finds. 

Transient electronics are intended to be rugged on the battlefield but able to be destroyed on command, perhaps by biomedical implants that release "a few droplets of [a self-destruct] liquid" or other means. 

Whether self-destructing in five seconds or slightly more, the need to preserve our sensitive battlefield technologies and the intelligence they contain has never been more vital. ;-)

(Source Photo: here with attribution to Mike Licht)

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February 1, 2013

Biowarfare, A Means To Our End

The Wall Street Journal (1 February 2013) has an interesting book review on "The Soviet Biological Weapons Program."

Although 85 nations, including the Soviet Union, in 1975 signed the "Biological Weapons Convention" (BWC) pledging not to develop, produce, acquire or stockpile bioweapons or toxins for hostile purposes, the Soviet regime was "covertly expanding them."

In the following years, the Soviets "built the most extensive facilities for the weaponization of bacteria and viruses in history" with "tens of thousands of scientists and support personnel and guarded by hundreds of Ministry of Interior troops."

Both civilian and military laboratories were used under the guise of biotechnology, and factories that produce flu vaccines and pesticides for crops could relatively easily be converted to mass-produce deadly bioweapons to use against the West.

Apparently, motivating the Red Army were there own horrible experiences in the early 20th century when disease such as typhus and lice killed millions "mowing down our troops."

"Fighting disease became a priority...and such efforts morphed easily into weapons research."

While the Soviets could not financially keep pace with the U.S. and eventually lost the Cold War, they continued to funnel their military dollars into nuclear and bioweapons, where they could literally get the most bang for the buck!

Often I think that despite the safety we generally feel in this country surrounded on both sides by large expanses of Ocean and the freedoms that protect us within, we are really only a nuclear suitcase or bio epidemic away from great catastrophe and chaos.  

In such an event, would we know who to retaliate against, would we have time, and even if we do, what good does it do us with mass casualties and disruptions?

Make no mistake; being able to retaliate against the perpetrators is critical to bring justice and respite to the nation, to prevent the potential for national annihilation, and to deter other maniacal acts.

However, it is vital as well to protect us from ever getting hit by weapons of mass destruction in the first place and depending on treaties alone cannot be enough.

Rather, excellent intelligence, early warning systems, antimissile defense, stockpiles of antidotes and countermeasures, premier medical facilities, superbly trained first responders, a high state military readiness, and refined continuity plans are all necessary to keep us from a premature and horrible end--and ultimately to preserve the peace. ;-)

(Source Photo: here with attribution to Pere Ubu)

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November 20, 2012

The Guardian Of Israel

"The Guardian of Israel neither slumbers or sleeps." (Psalms 121:4)

Much is being celebrated about Israel's new Iron Dome missile defense system with approximately 90% success rate for shooting down incoming missiles threatening populated areas and critical infrastructure.

However, Foreign Policy Magazine (20 November 2012) is touting another amazing advance by Israel, this time in robotic weapons systems.

It is called The Guardian Unmanned Ground Vehicle (UGV), and it is made by G-NIUS. 

It's a fully armored vehicle with 660 pounds of electronic sensors and weapons. 

The Guardian can autonomously "run patrol of predetermined routes" or it can be controlled via remote or mobile command center. 

- It can run at 50 miles per hour, has powerful off-road capability, and an robust obstacle detection and avoidance system. 

- Guardian can carry 1.2 tons of ammunition and supplies. 

- The robotic vehicle is outfitted with all-weather video and thermal cameras, microphones, loudspeakers, and electronic countermeasures. 

- It alerts to suspicious activity, identifies sources of fire, and by human operator can open fire with "auto-taret acquisition". 

This versatile weaponized robot can be used for force protection or to guard strategic assets, it can be used for perimeter, border or convey security, and for combat or logistical support missions. 

It is easy to see how UGVs like this, especially in concert with UAVs (Unmanned Aerial Vehicles) can take on the enemy and help keep the troops out of harm's way. 

For the future of UGVs and UAVs, think of a swarm, with masses of robots managing the battlefield both with and without human operators, and the vision of Star Wars on the ground and in space is just generations of robots away. 

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May 29, 2012

A Cyber Security House Of Cards

Yesterday there were reports of a new "massive cyber attack" called the Flame.

A U.N. Spokesperson called it "the most powerful [cyber] espionage tool ever."

The Flame ups the cyber warfare ante and is "one of the most complex threats ever discovered"--20 times larger than Stuxnet--and essentially an "industrial vacuum cleaner for sensitive information."

Unlike prior cyber attacks that targeted computers to delete data ("Wiper"), steal data ("Duqu"), or to disrupt infrastructure ("Stuxnet"), this malware collects sensitive information. 

The malware can record audio, take screenshots of items of interest, log keyboard strokes, sniff the network, and even add-on additional malware modules as needed. 

Kaspersky Labs discovered the Flame visus, and there have been greater than 600 targets infected in more than 7 countries over the last 2 years with the greatest concentration in Iran. 

This is reminiscent of the Operation Shady Rat that was a 5-year cyber espionage attack discovered by McAfee in 2011--involving malware that affected more than 72 institutions in 14 countries. 

Separately, an attack on the U.S. Federal government's retirement investments--the Thrift Saving Plan --impacted the privacy and account information of 123,000 participants and "unathroized access"--and was reported just last week after being discovered as far back as July 2011.

Regardless of where the particular cyber attacks are initiating from, given the scale and potential impact of these, it is time to take cyber security seriously and adopt a more proactive rather than a reactive mode to it.

One can only wonder how many other cyber attacks are occuring that we don't yet know about, and perhaps never will.

We can't afford to fumble the countermeasures to the extraordinary risk we face in the playing fields of cyber warfare. 


We have to significantly strengthen our cyber defenses (and offenses) -- or else risk this "cyber house of cards" come crashing down. 

It's time for a massive infusion of funds, talent, tools, and leadership to turn this around and secure our nation's cyber infrastructure.   

(Source Photo: here with attribution to Dave Rogers)

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May 5, 2012

Understanding Risk Management

Information Security, like all security, needs to be managed on a risk management basis.  

This is a fundamental principle that was prior advocated for the Department of Homeland Security, by the former Secretary Michael Chertoff.  

The basic premise is that we have limited resources to cover ever changing and expanding risks, and that therefore, we must put our security resources to the greatest risks first.

Daniel Ryan and Julie Ryan (1995) came up with a simple formula for determining risks, as follows:

Risk = [(Threats x Vulnerabilities) / Countermeasures)]  x  Impact

Where:

- Threats = those who wish do you harm.

- Vulnerabilities = inherent weaknesses or design flaws.

- Countermeasures = the things you do to protect against the dangers imposed.

[Together, threats and vulnerabilities, offset by any countermeasures, is the probability or likelihood of a potential (negative) event occurring.]

- Impacts = the damage or potential loss that would be done.

Of course, in a perfect world, we would like to reduce risk to zero and be completely secure, but in the real world, the cost of achieving total risk avoidance is cost prohibitive. 

For example, with information systems, the only way to hypothetically eliminate all risk is by disconnecting (and turning off) all your computing resources, thereby isolating yourself from any and all threats. But as we know, this is counterproductive, since there is a positive correlation between connectivity and productivity. When connectivity goes down, so does productivity.

Thus, in the absence of being able to completely eliminate risk, we are left with managing risk and particularly with securing critical infrastructure protection (CIP) through the prioritization of the highest security risks and securing these, going down that list until we exhaust our available resources to issue countermeasures with.

In a sense, being unable to "get rid of risk" or fully secure ourselves from anything bad happening to us is a philosophically imperfect answer and leaves me feeling unsatisfied--in other words, what good is security if we can't ever really have it anyway?

I guess the ultimate risk we all face is the risk of our own mortality. In response all we can do is accept our limitations and take action on the rest.

(Source Photo: here with attribution to martinluff)

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February 25, 2009

Security Architecture Q&A

Recently, I was interviewed on the subject of Security Architecture and was given permission to share the Q&A:

In general, what kinds of information security issues does an organization face?

The overarching information security issue in any organization is one of communication, collaboration and the need for transparency vs. the need to protect information from being compromised. Information security is about more than just "stopping leaks." It is also about making sure that people don't intercept, interject or otherwise manipulate agency information for their own ends.

A related issue has to do with protecting the agency's critical IT infrastructure from physical or cyber attack. It's the age-old conflict: If you lock it down completely, then you're protecting it, but you also can't use it. And if you open yourself up altogether, then obviously it won't be long before somebody takes aim.

Finally, the largest threat to an organization's information is clearly from insiders, who have the "keys to the kingdom." And so one must pay great attention to not only the qualifications, but also the background, of the employees and contractors entrusted with access to IT systems. Additionally we must institute checks and balances so that each person is accountable and is overseen.

How do leaders demonstrate security leadership?

Leadership in the area of security is demonstrated in a variety of ways. Obviously the primary method for demonstrating the importance of this function is to formalize it and establish a chief information security officer with the resources and tools at his or her disposal to get the job done.

But security leadership also means building an awareness of risk (and countermeasures) into everything we do: education, awareness, planning, designing, developing, testing, scanning and monitoring.

When new applications or services are being planned and rolled out, does security have a seat at the table?

I can't imagine any organization these days that doesn't consider security in planning and rolling out new applications or services. The real question is, does the organization have a formal process in place to provide certification and accreditation for IT systems? By law, federal agencies are required to do this.

Would you say that information security is generally tightly integrated into organizational culture?

I think that a security mindset and culture predominate in professions where security is paramount, such as law enforcement, defense and intelligence, for obvious reasons.

But the larger question is, how would other organizations make the transition to a culture of greater information security? And this is actually a really important question in today's age of transparency, social networking, Web 2.0, etc., where so much information is freely flowing in all directions. One approach that I have adopted as a culture-changing mechanism is to treat key initiatives as products to be marketed to a target audience. The IT security professional needs to be a master communicator as well as a technical expert, so that employees not only grudgingly comply with necessary measures, but are actively engaged with, and support, their implementation.

At the end of the day, the organization's information security is only as strong as its weakest link. So security has to be as deeply ingrained into the culture and day-to-day operations as possible.

Is information security an inhibitor to new initiatives?

Information security is one of many requirements that new initiatives must meet. And of course there will always be people who see compliance as an inhibitor. But the reality is that security compliance is an enabler for initiatives to achieve their goals. So the key for IT security professionals is to keep educating and supporting their stakeholders on what they need to do to achieve success and security at the same time.


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