Forgot your password?
typodupeerror
The Military

Boeing's CHAMP Missile Uses Radio Waves To Remotely Disable PCs 341

Posted by Unknown Lamer
from the computer-time-is-over-billy dept.
Dupple writes "During last week's test, a CHAMP (Counter-electronics High-powered Microwave Advanced Missile Project) missile successfully disabled its target by firing high power microwaves into a building filled with computers and other electronics. 'On Oct. 16th at 10:32 a.m. MST a Boeing Phantom Works team along with members from the U.S. Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) Directed Energy Directorate team, and Raytheon Ktech, suppliers of the High Power Microwave source, huddled in a conference room at Hill Air Force Base and watched the history making test unfold on a television monitor. CHAMP approached its first target and fired a burst of High Power Microwaves at a two story building built on the test range. Inside rows of personal computers and electrical systems were turned on to gauge the effects of the powerful radio waves. Seconds later the PC monitors went dark and cheers erupted in the conference room. CHAMP had successfully knocked out the computer and electrical systems in the target building. Even the television cameras set up to record the test were knocked off line without collateral damage.'"
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

Boeing's CHAMP Missile Uses Radio Waves To Remotely Disable PCs

Comments Filter:
  • by jimbodude (2445520) on Wednesday October 24, 2012 @10:15AM (#41751663)
    I need a tinfoil house!
  • Will take care of that issue.

    • Re:Faradays cage (Score:5, Interesting)

      by MyLongNickName (822545) on Wednesday October 24, 2012 @10:23AM (#41751795) Journal

      Excuse my ignorance on this one, but if the missile disrupts electrical systems, how is a Faraday cage going to help? Assuming that your generation is not self contained, would such a disruption take out the electrical system outside of the Faraday cage? And if there is a sufficient spike, still do damage to devices inside the cage? Yea, I imagine with sufficient surge protection and battery backup you might be able to withstand the attack, but in all seriousness, only a really hardened target would have a chance. In the era of asymmetric warfare, the U.S. would be unlikely to face an enemy with this type of planning and resources. And if it were symmetric conflict, I doubt the United States would be worried about such a target attack. Instead they would cripple infrastructure or simply take out the building.

      The more likely use case would be conducting a targeted raid and using a weapon like this to ensure that all security systems and communications systems were disabled right before the raid. Think Bin Laden compound.

      The even more likely scenario is that this is a way of making some companies very rich and this weapon will never see use.

      • Re:Faradays cage (Score:5, Informative)

        by bmo (77928) on Wednesday October 24, 2012 @10:34AM (#41751963)

        >Excuse my ignorance on this one, but if the missile disrupts electrical systems, how is a Faraday cage going to help?

        The microwaves doesn't cause sufficient voltage spikes in the electrical power going into the building - that takes an EMP to happen. The microwaves causes voltage surges at the junction level in the microelectronics in the machine itself, where the threshold for a "fry" is much lower.

        A faraday cage, like the one that keeps you from being irradiated with 1.5kW of radio waves as you stand in front of your microwave oven waiting for the popcorn, would be sufficient to keep the electronics inside the building working. Either build a room or shield the whole building with mesh.

        Eine kleine chicken wire

        --
        BMO

        • Can you comment on the summary and article's claim that it had taken electrical systems off line? I seriously don't understand the mechanics behind all of this and would like to understand a little bit more.

          • Re:Faradays cage (Score:5, Informative)

            by bmo (77928) on Wednesday October 24, 2012 @10:49AM (#41752205)

            Power supplies, especially the ones in computers and in cameras and everything else except things like fluorescent lamp ballasts, have transistors. These transistors get fried at the junctions.

            You can't aim a microwave signal at a power line or transformer and get the desired result here. The wavelength is too short.

            Note that the fluorescent lights are still on in the room in the photograph.

            --
            BMO

        • by jhoegl (638955)
          Exactly what I was thinking.

          So this technology is already defeated before it got off the ground.
        • by Lumpy (12016)

          Or own a house with aluminum siding with aluminum screens on aluminum storm window retrofits. anyone that has lived in this typical house in the urburbs will tell you that it's highly effective at keeping out attacks like this, as well as Cellular service.

      • I'm sure it works great against any kind of wired equipment (as the leads work as great antennas to pick up the pulse), but what of those fancy laptops with aluminum cases? Cell phones, especially if off? You'd think that people who are important enough for the government to go after them with something like this would be aware of it and harden their communications against it. If you're unsophisticated enough to be susceptible to this you're probably not enough of a threat to warrant its use.
    • The problem is... Faraday cages aren't a magic wand. Real world Faraday cages aren't like the little screened off sheds thingies you see on Mythbusters.

      Real world Faraday cages have power coming into them. And HVAC systems controlling the environment inside. And communications between the equipment inside and the world outside. And doors for the occupants to enter and leave by... And all of these things can potentially allow RF energy into the "protected" volume, if they don't invalidate the protectio

  • On the one hand I love reading about science stories. On the other, I am frankly tired of spending billions of dollars to prove the US has the biggest penis. Please cut our military spending 50 percent, focus on diplomacy and better targeted aid. Fund alternative energy to reduce our reliance on dictatorships.

    • by SJHillman (1966756) on Wednesday October 24, 2012 @10:22AM (#41751775)

      I think this is a pretty good use of our military budget. It knocks out enemy electronics without collateral damage. If it hits the wrong target, no civilian casualties. Granted, it's not too difficult to shield against, but that costs a fair bit of money and not everyplace can easily be shielded. If you can take out enemy electronics, you can effectively kill their communications and even a good portion of their mobility... which are probably the two most important elements in any conflict.

      • by Coisiche (2000870) on Wednesday October 24, 2012 @10:29AM (#41751881)

        If it hits the wrong target, no civilian casualties.

        You killed my World of Warcraft! You bastards!

      • by Nadaka (224565) on Wednesday October 24, 2012 @10:38AM (#41752017)

        No casualties...

        Except everyone with a pacemaker.

        And everyone hooked up on life support.

        And most of the people flying through the area.

        And most of the people driving at high speed through the area.

        • by Baloroth (2370816)

          Except everyone with a pacemaker.

          I dunno what frequency they are using exactly, but microwave radiation doesn't penetrate very deep into human skin, so it might not do any damage at all. And it's focused, so they can avoid planes and hospitals. And cars don't automatically crash if the electronics fail, thats the reason EMP is used against fleeing vehicles.

          • by daem0n1x (748565)

            And it's focused, so they can avoid planes and hospitals.

            Yeah, because the US have such a great track record on focusing on the right target.

            • I'm sure those planes and hospitals are full of Suspected Militants anyways...

          • And cars don't automatically crash if the electronics fail, thats the reason EMP is used against fleeing vehicles.

            O RLY?

            http://www.wired.com/autopia/2012/10/nissan-steer-by-wire/ [wired.com]

            • YARLY

              FTA:

              Before you start squawking about an electrical failure, Nissan says the steering wheel is connected to the rack through an emergency clutch, allowing the driver to retain control if something goes kablooey.

      • by Joce640k (829181)

        Granted, it's not too difficult to shield against, but that costs a fair bit of money and not everyplace can easily be shielded.

        So ... it works in goat-herder countries but not anywhere else.

        Uhuh. That sounds like it was worth the money. Those goat herders usually operate out of rooms full of computers and other sophisticated electronics...

        • Even in goatherder country, you find a fair amount of electronics for communications. Bonus: they're usually older models with even less shielding.

          In modern countries, how many buildings are shielded with a Faraday cage? Nuke bunkers, sensitive control centers, not much else. While hitting the brain would be ideal, it's still a pretty good strategy to take out all of the supporting infrastructure and would be too costly to shield everything.

      • by Xenna (37238)

        Hmm, you have a point.
        It's like a positive Neutron Bomb [wikipedia.org].

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      obama was right. lower the defense (cough, I mean offense) spending.

      the hawks have had too good a time for too long. and we have all suffered due to the fact that there is limited funding and the asshole military leaders keep taking MORE than their fair share of the nation's wealth.

      I'm tired of this bullshit spending!

      cut it 50%. cut it 80%.

      put the money back in the us where our own infrastructure is rotting away before our very eyes!

      you know, money can work as well (or better) for peacetime things, too.

  • by Progman3K (515744) on Wednesday October 24, 2012 @10:16AM (#41751685)

    Welcome to the age of industrial terrorism.

  • Aluminum Foil (Score:4, Insightful)

    by mbone (558574) on Wednesday October 24, 2012 @10:21AM (#41751753)

    So, the bad guys (junior grade) have to go out and buy aluminum foil to shield their gear.

    The bad guys, senior grade, are worried about Tempest and already have shielding. (Note - if a missile can knock your monitor out, and that is a worry to you, you should also assume that a drone can pick up what the monitor is displaying.)

    • Tempest proofing is a difficult art. Things like ventalation and getting power into and select signals out make it non-trivial.

      A completely tempest proof room in a building is a giveaway that you're doing something important there.

      Also, Tempest signals are extremely low power. This is extremely high power. Look what happens to a ball of aluminum foil you put in a microwave oven. Imagine that's your shielding...
      • by Lumpy (12016)

        what idiot uses crinkled shielding?

        Cut a perfect disc of aluminum foil and press it flat. put it in the microwave... nothing happens.

        When you know how RF works you dont make mistakes like you did and assume.

        • Even if the shielding is crinkled, shouldn't any objects inside insulated from the shielding still be protected? Maybe I'll try that with an old microwave and a digipet or something.

        • what idiot uses crinkled shielding?

          Every idiot that has to use real-world materials on hand, instead of perfect circles of aluminum.

          I stand by my original statement. In the real world, out of the lab, it's hard to make a perfect Faraday cage that's useful. Things like doors, and power conduits mess up its integrity, would allow in some of the signal that might be enough to fry your electronics.

          Simply building your special room 3 floors undergound would probably attenuate the signal enough, but there are other missiles that address th

  • And the missile? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward

    So what happened to the missile? Did it land in the yard in front of the building to be taken apart and sold on the black market?

  • "Even the television cameras set up to record the test were knocked off line without collateral damage."

    That _IS_ collateral damage.

    • Unless the cameras were damaged, then no, there isn't collateral damage. Being knocked offline isn't "damage".

    • by geekoid (135745)

      No it isn't. Within the parameters of the test, they where expected to shut down. In this case, Collateral damage means they wouldn't be functional again. They functioned fine afterwards.

  • by Ogi_UnixNut (916982) on Wednesday October 24, 2012 @10:25AM (#41751825) Homepage

    ...with antennas to remotely disable machines. I've known people make them. However the issue was that 2.4GHz* would cause people to go blind if you hit them with it (due to the clear liquid in your eyes turning milky). As such I don't think this will ever be used in anything other than a war setting, and even then, if you're going to cook the occupants to death, you might as well hit them with a conventional explosive, probably a nicer way to go.

    TFA doesn't mention which microwaves they use, perhaps they other other ones which do not affect humans so much.

    • ...with antennas to remotely disable machines. I've known people make them. However the issue was that 2.4GHz* would cause people to go blind if you hit them with it (due to the clear liquid in your eyes turning milky). As such I don't think this will ever be used in anything other than a war setting, and even then, if you're going to cook the occupants to death, you might as well hit them with a conventional explosive, probably a nicer way to go.

      TFA doesn't mention which microwaves they use, perhaps they other other ones which do not affect humans so much.

      The burden placed on the enemy of caring for the suddenly disabled is considered part of warfare and is in fact more damaging to the enemy than simply killing them. War is ugly.

      • by X0563511 (793323)

        It should be noted that the Geneva Convention's bit about blinding seems to be specific to lasers. Thus would not apply... (as far as I understand it, and I'm no expert on the matter)

        • by SuricouRaven (1897204) on Wednesday October 24, 2012 @12:17PM (#41753401)
          My understanding - and I am not an expert either - is that it prohibits weapons that are *intended* to cause blindness. It doesn't prohibit weapons which may cause blindness incidentially to their intended purpose, and this has come up in the past with regards to laser-guided missiles where the very high-powered targeting laser can be easily pointed into the enemy eyes to disable them while the missile closes.
  • Attack cats (Score:5, Funny)

    by SirGarlon (845873) on Wednesday October 24, 2012 @10:25AM (#41751827)
    So what they've basically done is created a missile that does the same thing as my cat -- disables computer systems. Though since my cat is not available for deployment in a combat zone, I think the missile is the way to go.
  • New-and-improved ways to destroy stuff!

    Now, hopefully, history will proceed as it usually does, and other countries won't in response take the unprecedented step of developing their own improved ways to destroy our stuff.

    Live by the sword... well, you know the rest.

  • Can this thing be used to take out the "Dancing With the Stars" and "American Idol" studios? Oh, please God.
    • Seriously? Of all the Crap reality TV on, these are the ones you chose to make your point? Those two are way down the priority list from, for example #27 Real Housewives, #13 swamp people, and of course #1 Jersey Shore. But don't worry, mission planning proceeds apace.
  • I believe this would qualify as 'collateral damage', if they ended up burned instead of warmed and ready.

  • by Guppy06 (410832) on Wednesday October 24, 2012 @10:38AM (#41752027)

    On Oct. 16th at 10:32 a.m. MST

    Mountain Daylight Time!

    • by Culture20 (968837)
      Further proof that daylight savings time needs to die; people still don't understand it.
    • by Sez Zero (586611)

      On Oct. 16th at 10:32 a.m. MST

      Mountain Daylight Time!

      Don't go changing history by an hour; maybe Boeing doesn't use Daylight time? Like Arizona.

      Just because they provided the units for their measure, doesn't mean it is wrong. That's like complaining someone used centimeters instead of inches.

    • I'm fairly certain that you, the person who modded you up, and Culture20 represent the entire population of people who care about that.

  • That faint buzzing? That's the sound of Freedom (being utterly destroyed by the Military-Fatherland-Industrial Complex)!
  • It's interesting that it can disable multiple targets, I wonder what the power requirements are. I figured the missile would detonate near the target and use the energy of the explosion to somehow how generate targeted microwaves like a shaped charge energy weapon more or less. It's on a missile because missiles are fast but I bet we see the same setup installed on drones in the near future.
  • 1. Knock out old CRT monitors and custom built PC's.

    2. Creates a new PC industry designed to be withstand microwave blasts.

  • how do they know what happened to the other electronics- the TARGET?

  • Does anyone know exactly what is fried in the monitors and in the PC's? I would have thought that the metal cases found on most PC's would have provided some amount of protection.

    • The metal cases generally have gaps bigger than the wavelength of microwave radiation...so, no.

      Very fine wires/traces of any kind can be burnt out, like those found in just about any IC.

  • by PPH (736903)

    From the photo in TFA, all I see is old school tower type PCs. In other words, no laptops with batteries. So yeah, if you turn off the power you "knock out" the PCs.

    Reminds me of the humorous IT support call, the punch line of which is, "Do you still have the box that the PC came in?"

  • I'm sure they're hoping analog turntables will make a comeback...

  • by MMORG (311325) on Wednesday October 24, 2012 @03:02PM (#41755503)

    I love how the U.S. military keeps inventing weapon systems that are far more effectively used against us than against the sorts of enemies we face these days. Sure, we get a few year's worth of lead time where we're the only one in possession of the new toys but once it's been invented, it's just a matter of time until everyone has it. Tell, me, who has more to lose from the wide availability of this sort of missile system? The people with the heaviest reliance on computers, of course. Same goes for Stuxnet, of course, except that was even worse because that weapon system delivers its own blueprint. Thanks, guys.

Fools ignore complexity. Pragmatists suffer it. Some can avoid it. Geniuses remove it. -- Perlis's Programming Proverb #58, SIGPLAN Notices, Sept. 1982

Working...