Tag Archives: Warfare and Conflict

Israeli Air Force celebrates Space Week with eerie image of a Cosmic War

The image used by the Israel’s Air Force to advertise an article about the Israeli Space Week features a battle of spacecrafts: error or subliminal message?

It must have been a mistake but the image that the Israeli Air Force posted on Facebook, along with the link to the article on the IAF official website that celebrates the Israeli Space Week, shows a sort of cosmic battle.

IAF FB page

Actually, the related post published on the much informative IAF website has little to do with weaponization of space. It recounts the activities conducted by the Israeli Space Agency during 2013.

Still, the image (a very well known space wallpaper that you can download at different sizes from several websites, including this one) chosen for the Facebook post is a bit “aggressive”: maybe by accident, because an alien invasion is imminent or just because Israel knows very well where the future wars are going to be fought.

Image credit: 1hdwallpapers.com/IAF Facebook page

 

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After latest F-35 hack, Lockheed Martin, BAe Systems, Elbit under multiple cyber attacks….right now.

I have just published a timeline covering the main Cyber Attacks targeting Military Industry and Aviation, but it looks like the latest events will force me to post an update, soon.

Although perpetrated with very different timelines, origins and motivations behind them, the last three days have seen a new wave of attacks against military industry that has unexpectedly become the point of intersection between cybercrime and cyberwar.

The first clamorous attack was disclosed a couple of days ago, when the Sunday Times revealed that alleged Chinese Hackers were able to penetrate into computers belonging to BAE Systems, Britain’s biggest defence company, and to steal details about the design, performance and electronic systems of the West’s latest fighter jet, the costly F-35 Joint Strike Fighter. The hacking attack has raised concerns that the fighter jet’s advanced radar capabilities could have been compromised and comes few weeks after papers about the future British-French drone were stolen in Paris.

Apparently, once again, an APT-based attack, or maybe one of its precursors, since it was first uncovered nearly three years ago. In any case, according to the sources and the little information available, it lasted continuously for 18 months, exploiting vulnerabilities in BAE’s computer defences to steal vast amounts of data. A fingerprint analogous to other similar cyber operations, allegedly generated from China such as Operation Aurora or the controversial operation Shady RAT.

Details of the attack have been a secret within Britain’s intelligence community until they were disclosed by a senior BAE executive during a private dinner in London for cyber security experts late last year.

Curiously the F-35 seems to be a very attracting prey for hackers as it was already the victim of a Cyber Attack in 2009; once again the latest attack is believed to be originated from China, who is showing a restless cyber activity.

Although completely different for impact and motivations, a second attack has just been announced by the infamous hacking collective Anonymous, which, in name of the #OpFreePalestine operation, has published the contact details for senior staff at BAE (hit once again), Lockheed, Gulfstream Aerospace, a division of General Dynamics, and the United States Division Of Israeli Owned Arms Company Elbit Systems. An attempt to embarrass military industry considered involved in the events happening in Palestine.

Although the data dumps apparently contain little valuable information (according to V3.co.uk many of the telephone numbers listed are for company headquarters, while several of the names appear to be out of date), the latest attacks represent a quantum leap in the Middle East Cyber War, after the “reign of terror” threatened by Anonymous against Israel.

The F-35 JSF is not only the most advanced stealthy fighter plane of the next future. It is also the most expensive. That’s why some partners have been compelled to downsize their initial requirements because of cuts imposed by the increasing unit price (with the new contract the total unit cost for an LRIP 5 jet is 205.3 million USD!!).

Apparently these cuts are interesting even the IT Security budgets of the manufacturers.

If you want to have an idea of how fragile our data are inside the cyberspace, have a look at the timelines of the main Cyber Attacks in 2011 and 2012 (regularly updated) at hackmageddon.com. And follow the author of this article @paulsparrows on Twitter for the latest updates.

"Some NATO air strikes in Libya may have violated the law of war" report of the International Commission of Inquiry on Libya says

According to a report published in these hours by the UN Commission of inquiry on Libya, the coalition of NATO and non-NATO members, operating within Operation Unified Protector to enforce the UN Security Council resolutions 1970 and 1973, may have violated the law of war in some air strikes that caused the death of civilians.

Nothing comparable to the international crimes, both crimes against humanity and war crimes, committed by Gaddafi forces and including unlawful killing, individual acts of torture and ill-treatment, attacks on civilians using prohibited weapons (cluster munitions and anti-personnel and anti-vehicle landmines), and rape;  nor the “serious violations” committed by the thuwar (anti-Gaddafi forces aka “rebels”), that included unlawful killing, arbitrary arrest, torture, enforced disappearance, indiscriminate attacks, and pillage.

NATO told the Commission that it had a standard of “zero expectation” of death or injury to civilians and that no targets were struck if there was any reason to believe civilians would be injured or killed by a strike.

The vast majority of NATO airstrikes did not cause collateral damages, even where there was a significant potential for civilian harm: for example, on May 24-25 when NATO aircraft struck the Bab-al-Aziziyah facility, the headquarters and residence of Gaddafi in central Tripoli numerous security buildings, located less than 300 meters from civilian apartment buildings, (close enough to be at risk of collateral damage), were destroyed without civilian casualties.

However, “on limited occasions, the Commission confirmed civilian casualties and found targets that showed no evidence of military utility. The Commission was unable to draw conclusions in such instances on the basis of the information provided by NATO and recommends further investigations.”

Indeed the conclusion is:

The Commission found NATO did not deliberately target civilians in Libya. For the few targets struck within population centres, NATO took extensive precautions to ensure civilians were not killed.

However, there were a small number of strikes where NATO’s response to the Commission has not allowed it to draw conclusions on the rationale for, or the circumstances of the attacks. The Commission is unable to conclude, barring additional explanation, whether these strikes are consistent with NATO’s objective to avoid civilian casualties entirely, or whether NATO took all necessary precautions to that effect.

NATO’s characterization of four of five targets where the Commission found civilian casualties as “command and control nodes” or “troop staging areas” is not reflected in evidence at the scene and witness testimony. The Commission is unable to determine, for lack of sufficient information, whether these strikes were based on incorrect or out-dated intelligence and, therefore, whether they were consistent with NATO’s objective to take all necessary precautions to avoid civilian casualties entirely.

The Commission has investigated numerous strikes in Libya, especially those where civilians died. And although it determined that NATO did not commit any human right violation, nor used  prohinited weapons, found some oddities.

As the use of “miscellaneous Precision Guided Munitions”, four of which were employed along with 3,644 LGBs, 2,844 GPS-guided, 1,150 precision-guided direct-fire weapons (such as Hellfire missiles), or the use of expired materials.

For instance, in one of those air strikes, the one in the town of Majer in the area of Al Huwayjat on Aug. 8 that resulted in the single largest case of civilian casualties from a NATO airstrike NATO dropped a GBU-12 bomb whose guidance kit was more than five years past its warranty date (2005).

GBU-12 guidance kit debris with warranty expired in 2005

Even if this is not “ethical” nor safe, there are still some reasons to explain the use obsolete components that might turn a smart weapon into a dumb one. Usually, a laser designator past its warranty expiration date would not be used whereas a tail kit of a PGM, used for bomb guidance, could be used past warranty date, after being checked to see if the fins deployed according to military sources.

In fact, NATO’s answer was that “the fact alone that an expiration date has been passed does not mean that a weapon is no longer reliable.”

Nevertheless, the usage of such old parts indicates that NATO partners were probably running very low on bomb (as pointed out in my final report on the Libya Air War).

But, what’s really amazing in the report is that NATO did not answer to all the UN Commission’s requests; requests aimed to determine the legitimacy of few air striks. On the contrary, it officially affirmed to be concerned if  some incidents (as the above) were included in the final report, “as on a par with those which the Commision may ultimately conclude did violate law or constitute crimes.”

That’s what emerges from a series of letter (last of which dated Feb.15) sent by NATO’s legal adviser to Judge P. Kirsch, Chair of the International Commission of Inquiry on Libya, to answer questions about the way the air campaign was conducted, specific targeting procedures, type of munitions used, etc.

[Annex II pag. 12 of the report]:

“We would accordingly request that, in the Commission elects to include discussion of NATO actions in Libya, its report clearly state that NATO did not deliberately target civilians and did not commit war crimes in Libya.”

Earlier NATO had already explained to be not “persuaded that examination of conduct of parties to the Libyan internal conflict implies expansion of the Commission’s work to include “investigation” of NATO’s actions giving effect to the mandate contained in UN Security Resolution 1973.”

Anyway, the Commission’s report contains lots of interesting things (number and type of weapons used, maps, satellite imagery, and so on) so I suggest you to read it at this link.