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New Technology May Cut Risk of Giving Syrian Rebels Stinger Missiles 279

Posted by Unknown Lamer
from the solution-to-the-wrong-problem dept.
Hugh Pickens writes "PBS reports on a proposal of arming Syrian rebels with a force equalizer to make a decisive blow against Bashar al-Assad's ruling regime — an idea that has so far failed to take hold inside the Obama administration because of serious concerns about flooding a troubled region with dangerous weapons that someday might fall into the wrong hands. Could sophisticated weapons, such as anti-aircraft missile systems, be outfitted with mechanisms that would disable them if they fell into the wrong hands? According to military analyst Anthony Cordesman the U.S. could modify Stinger anti-aircraft missiles and anti-tank weapons with batteries that cease functioning in a few weeks or months or the weapons could be built to require authentication codes before they are enabled to work. "I think it would be relatively decisive," says Cordesman. ... Another idea is to install GPS-disabling devices so that Stinger missiles only worked in a designated geographic area, such as only in Syria. Such weapons, it is believed, might tip the balance in favor of the rebels in the same way that Stinger anti-aircraft missiles, provided by the United States to the Afghan Mujahedeen, helped expel the Soviet Union from Afghanistan. Cordesman stressed that this type of weapon would have to be thoroughly tested to make sure the controls work and could not be undone. 'You could not transfer these types of weapons without these types of protections. You simply have no way to know where they would end up, how they would be transferred, what would happen to them.'"
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New Technology May Cut Risk of Giving Syrian Rebels Stinger Missiles

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  • DRM for weapons? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by acidfast7 (551610) on Tuesday November 06, 2012 @09:08AM (#41892341)
    paging DVD Jon
    • by oobayly (1056050) on Tuesday November 06, 2012 @09:15AM (#41892391)

      Exactly, because we all know how well it's worked before. Clearly the rebels are thought of as primitives and that none of them will have the expertise to work around the restrictions and use them as they so desire.

      • Syrian Rebels ^H^H^H^H^H^H^H^H^H^H^H^H^H Al Qaeda.
        http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-202_162-57531618/rebels-ally-with-al-qaeda-group-to-take-syrian-base/ [cbsnews.com]

        But the Libyan "rebels" were Al Qaeda imports, too. Just the distortion field of western corporate media makes this "Arab Spring" bullshit.

        • by oobayly (1056050) on Tuesday November 06, 2012 @10:48AM (#41893325)

          A shadowy jihadi group believed to have ties to al Qaeda fought alongside rebels who seized a government missile defense base in Syria on Friday

          Being aided by people [possibly] linked to al Qaeda makes you al Qaeda now? What I read from this is that they're linked by a common enemy, I won't lower myself to uttering the cliché. Do you honestly believe that US politicians gave a crap about the Koreans, the Vietnamese, and the Afghans during the cold war? Every country - mine included - has accepted the help of some pretty awful people to further their agenda.

          The world has to get over this idea of al Qaeda being a group of uber-terrorists with laser beams coming out of their eyes*. They're a bunch of people who have got lucky a handful of times and the thing about suicide bombers is that the good ones can't repeat their work, and the shit ones tend to fuck up, get scared, or get caught.

          If you want to live your life scared of these people, fine, do so. However, keep in mind that they don't hate you because of your freedom, it's for a range of reasons - some valid (stop fucking around in their affairs), but mostly invalid.

          * With apologies to Bill Bailey

          • by f3rret (1776822)

            thing about suicide bombers is that the good ones can't repeat their work, and the shit ones tend to fuck up, get scared, or get caught.

            You can't really be a good suicide bomber, you can be a good suicide bomber handler. Screw catching the suicide bombers (well before the op anyay) most of them are just uneducated and desperate people, you want the ops guys behind them.

          • by hairyfeet (841228) <bassbeast1968@gma i l . com> on Tuesday November 06, 2012 @01:27PM (#41895523) Journal

            Whether they are quote unquote allied with al Qaeda frankly isn't the point, the point is history will label the "Arab Spring" with a more appropriate label which is "Islamic Spring" as every place that has had an Islamic Spring has seen the rise of the ultra militant Islam movement and their gaining more power.

            Sooner or later the west is gonna wake up and accept that Islam and the west are simply incompatible and that we should be pursuing a policy of containment just as we did with communism. As long as the "moderate Muslims" refuse to stand up to the Mullahs there is NO moderates, because by remaining silent they are actively helping the radicals become more powerful. Remember "All it takes for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing" and that is EXACTLY what we are seeing all over the Islamic world, the radicals are given free reign by a populace that refuses to stand up to them. Even in the west, look at how many mosques have been openly preaching hate, are the mosques empty? Do the moderates walk out when the mullahs preach "death to the west!"? Nope, they still give their money and support.

            So the west doing anything to support or encourage an Islamic spring is frankly madness, because ANY government that replaces Assad will be an Islamic theocracy, with the destruction of Israel and the west as its goals.

            • by TubeSteak (669689)

              Sooner or later the west is gonna wake up and accept that Islam and the west are simply incompatible and that we should be pursuing a policy of containment just as we did with communism.

              You don't need to pursue a policy of containment.
              The Islamists are mostly isolationsists and just want the Western world to leave them alone.
              But as long as there is oil, Israel, and strategic supply routes, they'll never get their wish.

            • by johnos (109351) on Tuesday November 06, 2012 @03:24PM (#41897511)
              Did you live through the Cold War or just read about it? Because the big lesson was that sweeping generalizations about other systems of government and their danger to Western Civilization are complete bullshit. The Soviets were never capable of a fraction of the things we thought. Communism did not turn out to be a monolithic entity. It turned out to be organized crime running (or mostly not) countries. They weren't looking for world domination, they were looking out for #1. I don't know about you, but I promised myself when the Cold War ended to never be taken in like that again.

              Characterizations of Islam as a monolithic threat to our way of life are even less tenable than the threat from Communism. Islam is a religion, not a movement or ideology. Its fractured all over the place. Iran and Saudi Arabia are moral enemies. And Saudi Arabia is by far the most aggressive state in the export of Islamist fundamentalism. The reason Islamic parties are winning elections is because they tend to be not corrupt. They are frequently the only political groups that have the first idea about taking care of citizens rather than getting rich. And I thought the whole point of American foreign policy was the furthering of democracy. Well Islamists were elected in Egypt and Algeria last year, and in Turkey a decade ago. Has one of those countries invaded Israel?

              I think the biggest threat to world peace is not Islamists, its Republicans.
            • by smugfunt (8972)

              the radicals are given free reign by a populace that refuses to stand up to them.

              Not universally true: AP report [ap.org]
              There seems to be increasing opposition to the nutters in islamic countries, despite the severe hazard to one's health in doing so.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Anonymous Coward

        Big difference: Hard penalties are allowable in military devices. No consumer device will ever succeed in the market if it contains hard penalties as tamper responses.

        As a result, consumer device DRM will ALWAYS be broken because an attacker can try repeatedly to defeat the protection. Hard penalties result in failures to attack a device causing permanent unrecoverable damage.

        • Consumer devices typically contain warnings of hazards.

          Warning: The Blueray player contains a tamper explosive charge and shrapnel. Do not open the case.

        • by Golddess (1361003)
          Reminds me of a Modern Marvels episode. They were talking about the trigger device on nuclear warheads I think, and how you have to input a precise code in order to arm the device, or else it locks forever.
          • by f3rret (1776822)

            Reminds me of a Modern Marvels episode. They were talking about the trigger device on nuclear warheads I think, and how you have to input a precise code in order to arm the device, or else it locks forever.

            Myth has that code being 111-111-111 though.

            And 'locks forever' in this context means 'locks until someone physically pulls the weapon apart and resets it'.

          • Re:DRM for weapons? (Score:4, Informative)

            by tburke261 (981079) on Tuesday November 06, 2012 @12:03PM (#41894287)

            I believe you're thinking of a PAL, a Permissive Action Link. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Permissive_Action_Link [wikipedia.org]

            Funny thing, it started out as the Prescribed Action Link, but the grunts didn't like that, so they were permitted instead :)
            Can control yield and disable weapons, as well as authorize only specific targets in the case of an ICBM. So that new show 'Last Resort' where the rogue sub captain fires a nuclear warning shot into the Atlantic off the coast of DC. Yeah, that could never happen....

    • by mellon (7048) on Tuesday November 06, 2012 @09:18AM (#41892405) Homepage

      Oh come on, what could possibly go wrong with this clever plan? :)

    • by rvw (755107)

      paging DVD Jon

      You better call the RIAA. I bet they can get all those weapons back and trick these guys (the terrorists I mean) into paying them for the favor.

    • by interkin3tic (1469267) on Tuesday November 06, 2012 @10:52AM (#41893367)
      I hate it when I'm facing an enemy helicopter and the DRM on my game decides to quit, leaving me staring at an error message.

      I REALLY hate it when I'm facing an enemy helicopter and the DRM on my rocket launcher decides to quit, leaving me staring at an enemy helicopter.
  • Good idea... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Type44Q (1233630) on Tuesday November 06, 2012 @09:09AM (#41892351)
    We don't want these guys using this stuff against our own troops once our gov't betrays them (isn't that Uncle Sam's standard MO?).
    • Re:Good idea... (Score:5, Interesting)

      by mellon (7048) on Tuesday November 06, 2012 @09:19AM (#41892421) Homepage

      This sounds great until you consider how innovative people in the middle east have been with weaponry during the recent wars there. I'm skeptical that the security on these things would survive the first set of batteries.

      • by Type44Q (1233630) on Tuesday November 06, 2012 @09:26AM (#41892481)
        I give dealextreme and aliexpress 3 weeks before they're selling the hardware needed to mod these SAM's (with free China Royal Mail shipping to Syria, obviously). :p
        • Re: (Score:2, Troll)

          by BenJeremy (181303)

          yes, like a replacement battery.

          Unfortunately for the buyers, the parts will take 4 months to arrive, and do so in a crunched, twice-folded, resealed padded envelope (though because it wasn't an R4 cartridge, it went smoothly through HK customs).

          At any rate, I thought the Obama administration made it clear the Syrian rebels were too secular (Turkish-backed) to be supported. Even if this "authorization code" scheme only needs a new battery to defeat it, they still won't get any material support from the US u

    • Re:Good idea... (Score:5, Insightful)

      by dkleinsc (563838) on Tuesday November 06, 2012 @09:40AM (#41892599) Homepage

      Oh, come on, what are they worried about? Next thing you know, you're going to be telling us that the guy who organized terrorist attacks on the US had gotten CIA training and funding, or that the guy who the US decided was evil incarnate in 2003 only had gotten his hands on WMDs through the largess of the Reagan administration. I mean, that's just crazy talk.

    • Re:Good idea... (Score:4, Interesting)

      by runeghost (2509522) on Tuesday November 06, 2012 @02:43PM (#41896623)

      The Oneida after the Revolutionary War,
      the Tuscarora after the War of 1812,
      the Cossaks after WWII,
      the Hukbalahaps after WWII,
      the ARVN after Vietnam,
      the Mujahadeen in Afghanistan,
      the Shia and Kurds after the Gulf War,
      the Sunni after the Iraq war,
      and probably many more.

      It's a wonder anyone's still dumb enough to play on Uncle Sam's team. Does anyone doubt what's going to happen to the Afghan government and military after the United States finally leaves?

  • by jkflying (2190798) on Tuesday November 06, 2012 @09:10AM (#41892359)

    If you give them an 'expiry date' then they can't be used for future incidents. Couple that with geographical lock and it should be fairly safe.

    • by schwit1 (797399)

      Geographic lock? We've seen how well DVD region codes work.

      I'm sure General Dynamics will double the price for these added features. And then offer to remotely disable them ... for a nominal fee.

      • by jkflying (2190798)

        DVDs don't have military encrypted GPSs attached to them.

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by Dr_Barnowl (709838)

          The more complex you make a system, the easier it is to make it fail.

          Even if you managed to put in a 100% crackproof DRM system based on GPS, this makes the weapon useless - the opposition will just start jamming GPS signals.

        • by radtea (464814)

          DVDs don't have military encrypted GPSs attached to them.

          It wouldn't matter if they did. You're pointing (repeatedly) to the strongest part of the system and pretending that it's the point that has to be hacked, whereas we all know that it's the weakest part that will be the point of attack.

          What's the weakest point? I don't know, but I do know that it'll be far, far weaker than the encryption on military-grade GPS signals. Likely it'll be in the hardware that handles the actual unlocking of the control system. Remember, at the end of the day we are talking ab

  • by Anonymous Coward

    "force equalizer to make a decisive blow"

  • by ceoyoyo (59147) on Tuesday November 06, 2012 @09:12AM (#41892377)

    The batteries in my stinger missile have gone dead! What will I do?

    The poster picked an apt comparison: it's just like when the US trained and gave weapons to the Afghans against the Soviets. How's that one working out for you guys?

    • by dywolf (2673597)

      You really dont understand the time scale between the two conflicts do you? Or the differences in what we gave them then, and what they use today?
      Also that training? It wasn't a bootcamp. It wasnt combat skill training. "We trained them"...that phrase is so generic, so ambiguous, so utterly worthless. The media use it and it implies that we created a force that was as well trained as any of our basic troops. Guess what, that isnt the case.

      Most of those enemy combatants for one thing are NOT the same ones we

      • by dywolf (2673597)

        addendum to myself:
        Now as to the original topic, of course this could backfire. Almost anything can. The typical guy who uses the weapon, no he wont be able to jury rig it to bypass the controls. But not all of them are rural yokels. Someone will eventually rig a few to get around it. So the thought that they can control who uses it, is flawed to begin with, and should be rejected. If you release the weapons into the wild, you should be prepared to see them again later.

        That said, we very rarely give people

  • The authentication methods are buggy or can be easily circumvented (thus are buggy).
  • by amiga3D (567632)

    They have lost their damn minds. No way can this have a happy ending. And to think they learn nothing at all from history. The bitching about fast and furious is still going on.

  • by concealment (2447304) on Tuesday November 06, 2012 @09:24AM (#41892461) Homepage Journal

    Everything can be hacked, given time and effort, and what this plan will do is to encourage the crazies of the world to get a better understanding of how to make even more lethal weapons. Please don't.

    It seems that the US and Russia are fighting a proxy war over middle east oil by alternately propping up and destabilizing the already unstable Islamic regimes there. There is probably legitimacy to this. Without the middle east, Russia will become Europe's oil supply, and thus Europe will lean toward supporting the least stable major power and probably involve itself in another exciting world war.

    A better answer here might be to heat up this cold war, as Reagan did in the 1980s and Mitt Romney suggests he may do, by talking tough to the Russians and the Europeans both, and making it clear what's on the table here. International politics is a purely Machiavellian matter because as cruel as Machiavellianism can be, it saves lives and empires from the dustbin of history.

    • by Xest (935314)

      I'd generally agree, but apparently the stingers the US handed to the Afghans haven't been a threat since they invaded because the batteries had already degraded. That suggests a shelf life of, say 20 years on the batteries at most.

      If the shelf life is known like this then can't we just give them some say, 18 year old batteries, and also only give them a limited number of missiles to start with?

      I agree DRM on this sort of thing is bound to end in tears, but relying on something more natural like the natural

      • by h4rr4r (612664)

        How hard is it to replace batteries?
        All you need to do take a volt meter to the working batteries and make sure your replacements can provide enough mAh. If I can rebuild fairly undocumented batteries for tools and laptops I am pretty sure they can do it for the stinger.

        • by Xest (935314)

          I was wondering this myself, but if it is trivial then why hasn't the Taliban done it to shoot down Apaches/Chinooks in Afghanistan left right and centre?

          This to me suggests it's not that trivial, as from what I've heard it's not that there aren't still a decent number of stingers in Afghanistan. I have read reports of the odd one being fired which may suggest the odd battery has been found that just about has enough charge to work perhaps but they seem to be few and far between - certainly not frequent eno

  • fast and furious (Score:5, Insightful)

    by kc8tbe (772879) on Tuesday November 06, 2012 @09:25AM (#41892473)

    Oh yeah, because this sort of technology worked so well in Fast and Furious when Mexican drug lords used American assault weapons against us after the batterries in the GPS tracking system meant to locate them failed. I am not very convinced this sort of technology would be very difficult to override. The comparison of the Syrian rebels to the Afghan Mujahedeen, aka Taliban, who we are still fighting now, demonstrates an unfornate grasp of history by the people behind this idea. It's still not clear if the Syrian rebels should get military aid from us period -- they are still not a cohesive group, and elements of the rebellion still engage in things like torture and attacks on civilian targets.

    • by dywolf (2673597)

      Its not a good comparison at all. The weapons werent disabled in any way. The fed's went to gun dealers, and told them to break the law (by selling to certain individuals if they should try to buy weapons, rather than deny them like they normally would given certain red flags). the feds wanted to follow the weapons and thereby prove that us weapon sales were going across the border.

      The logic problem of course, was that if the dealers hadnt been told to allow the sales to happen...the sales wouldnt have happ

  • Geiger: No, wait a second! Don't touch it.
    Rico: Why not?
    Geiger: Well, that's a Lawgiver. That's programed to only recognise a Judge's hand. You touch that, it'll take your arm off!
    [Rico grabs the gun and points it in Geiger's face. The gun has accepted his grip]
    Rico: Gee, how do you like that? I must be a Judge.
    [he shoots Geiger]
  • by shellster_dude (1261444) on Tuesday November 06, 2012 @09:31AM (#41892531)
    Maybe we could add a GPS tracker that way we could track the weapons and know exactly where and how they are used...I know! We need a good name for this operation...hmm...missiles go fast, so maybe we could call it "Operation Fast and Furious!"...oh wait...
  • by onyxruby (118189)

    Digital Restrictions Management has and always will fail to a determined adversary. Professional security developers with millions of dollars of support had their attempts for DRM on game consoles, satellite cards, cell phones and other hardware defeated by the home brew community. Start getting professionals with proper labs and budgets involved and DRM will always fail, it's just a matter of time. What DRM can do is buy you time, but it does at the cost of exposing whatever DRM mechanism your using at tha

  • The obvious reason for designing an intentionally high maintenance weapon is expensive ongoing service contracts, the "prevent arms from falling into the wrong hands" is just the straw dog to get it to pass and make some dough.

    If you really wanted a solution to the "prevent falling into wrong hands" problem, you'd produce about 100 times as many SAMs as you "need" but 99 of them are booby trapped with bad source code in the guidance computer or intentionally faulty whatevers in the innards, so they intentio

  • by biodata (1981610) on Tuesday November 06, 2012 @10:02AM (#41892835)
    Look how well that worked out.
  • In security circles, doesn't physical access = assumed compromise? Game consoles & "locked" phones, e-Readers, etc. are all compromised within hours of being released to the masses. I think one should be very careful before placing trust in physical access security.

    • by Andy Dodd (701)

      Not necessarily. There are ways to protect a device even when an attacker has physical access. HOWEVER these ways involve techniques that are unacceptable to a consumer end-user, and so are never used in consumer devices.

      And the Sony PS3 took over a year to get compromised.

  • Formula 1 all the way down to Formula 3000 uses GPS to get millimetre accuracy. how can they do that, you ask, when the GPS signals are scrambled in the lower bits? well - and this i heard about as far back as 1993 when i was working for Pi Technology - all that is needed is one single low-power GPS transmitter, placed in the centre of the track which *is* accurate. the GPS receivers lock on to that; this gives a concentric ring of millimetre-level accuracy and the remaining GPS satellites can be used to

  • Just Stop (Score:3, Insightful)

    by HappilyUnstable (1838562) on Tuesday November 06, 2012 @10:27AM (#41893075)

    Can we just stop trying to solve all our problems with more weapons?

    captcha: captive

  • by zarthrag (650912) on Tuesday November 06, 2012 @10:33AM (#41893145)

    It was called "The System" Whenever you picked up a weapon, your DNA was checked against a database. No approval means no shooting....until you visit a Drebin (black-market gun launderer) ;-)

    • It was called "The System"

      (Or called SOP - Sons of the Patriots). Effectively ID tagged weapons and gear. If you, theoretically, had a system of registering unique IDs for rebels on some scale, be it just fingerprints on a certain part of the weapon, to the DNA of every single rebel on some database, it could be done to a degree

      However as other comments seem to point out, even if they take a long time to be hacked, they'd have to be pretty irreparable if broken as they shouldn't be salvageable for parts. And cost wise... who pays

  • I mean, sure, maybe they couldn't use it as a stinger, but that doesn't mean it couldn't still be used as a weapon against US interests. If it has explosives in it, how would this stop anyone from repurposing those explosives if the missile ceased functioning as desired?
  • As far as I recall, during the 1st Gulf war against Iraq, the French maker of the Exocet missile said in an interview that in the future the it would be a good idea to design missiles so they couldn't be used against freindly forces. It sounded like what he had in mind was an encoded message that would disable the missle if fired against a ship or aircraft.

    That's ok for warships and warplanes, but if the missle was stolen during a conflict, it could be used against a civlian target that didn't have the
  • The issue at hand is not really whether to build in a kill switch into surface to air missiles, but that we're supporting the wrong guys there: al Qaida and islamists, a.k.a. the Syrian "rebels." They may not get their hands on dangerous equipment now, if this equipment is DRMed, but once they overthrow the current secular government there, they'll establish their theocracy, and that theocracy is guaranteed to be just as bad, or likely worse towards the US than the current secular Syrian government has ever
  • I fully believe that these "safegaurds" will work perfectly for their intended purpose: To soothe the concerns of politicians long enough to make the sale.

    Clearly none of this can fully work.... one way or another, with time and enough units, any protection can be disabled, and a disabled device can be re-enabled, or modified.

    However, this allows politicians to claim its safe, and then be shielded from blame when it doesn't work out, and they can easily kill any investigations once the heat dies down.

  • People kill people.

    but ya, giving weapons to others means they'll probably get ebay'd to someone else later. So if you are worried about it, don't give anyone any weapons.

  • in the 1980s we celebrated these mujadeen as freedom fighters. We trained and armed them. It bit us in the ass.

    I propose we stop giving out stinger missles peroid.
  • In the movie a shoulder fired antiaircraft missile was supposed to be disabled. It was - it's flight computer was in fact disabled. But they used the explosives to blow up a ship.

    The world is a big place. You trying to shut down *everything* bad that can ever happen isn't gonna work out how you planned.

  • by jvonk (315830) on Tuesday November 06, 2012 @03:15PM (#41897305)

    The electronics-based, "DRM" type approaches aren't optimal due to increased complexity. Installing something that requires a GPS lock, time-expiring auth code, etc, reduces the chances of the weapon positively functioning in combat. Furthermore, unless sophisticated Permissive Action Links [wikipedia.org] are used, then any practical solution could potentially be defeated by third-party control/firmware. If they can't keep console hardware from being modchipped without resorting to judicial means, what do you think is going to happen when these diverted weapons end up in the hands of a group with state sponsorship?

    Thus, I suggest that the problem be attacked via chemistry. Attempt to develop explosives and rocket propellant that will decompose over time. Yes, this is likely to make the weapons sensitive to storage conditions (thereby altering the "expiration date"). However, a device whose warhead would "expire" in 5 years at room temperature is likely to last at least 12 months in the desert. Other "poison pills" could be added, eg. a compound that would degrade the warhead if it were frozen in an attempt to prolong viability.

    Yes, this approach might result in weapons that have to be swapped out frequently, but it would also prevent MANPADS given to erstwhile allies from coming back to haunt us in 15 years. If rogue actors can swap out the propellant and warhead while retaining the appropriate weights & distribution for flight characteristics, then they've probably got state sponsorship anyway (meaning they could get weapons regardless).

All this wheeling and dealing around, why, it isn't for money, it's for fun. Money's just the way we keep score. -- Henry Tyroon

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