Forgot your password?
typodupeerror
The Military Government Security United States

Could Tech Have Stopped ISIS From Using Our Own Heavy Weapons Against Us? 448

Posted by Soulskill
from the smart-phones-are-way-smarter-than-smart-bombs dept.
JonZittrain writes: This summer, ISIS insurgents captured Mosul — with with it, three divisions' worth of advanced American military hardware. After ISIS used it to capture the Mosul Dam, the U.S. started bombing its own pirated equipment. Could sophisticated military tanks and anti-aircraft missiles given or sold to countries like Iraq be equipped with a way to disable them if they're compromised, without opening them up to hacking by an enemy?

We already require extra authentication at a distance to arm nuclear weapons, and last season's 24 notwithstanding, we routinely operate military drones at a distance. Reportedly in the Falkland Islands war, Margaret Thatcher was able to extract codes to disable Argentina's Exocet missiles from the French. The simplest implementation might be like the proposal for land mines that expire after a certain time. Perhaps tanks — currently usable without even an ignition key — could require a renewal code digitally signed by the owning country to be entered manually or received by satellite every six months or so.

I'm a skeptic of kill switches, especially in consumer devices, but still found myself writing up the case for a way to disable military hardware in the field. There are lots of reasons it might not work — or work too well — but is there a way to improve on what we face now?
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

Could Tech Have Stopped ISIS From Using Our Own Heavy Weapons Against Us?

Comments Filter:
  • Like DRM? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Matt_H (34421) on Thursday September 04, 2014 @11:39AM (#47826053) Homepage

    As desirable as it would be in the case if ISIS, wouldn't implementing such kill switches on weapons be as ineffective as DRM for copyrighted material, with undesirable side-effects for "legitimate uses" and plenty of workarounds for "illegitimate" users?

  • No. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday September 04, 2014 @11:40AM (#47826069)

    Could sophisticated military tanks and anti-aircraft missiles given or sold to countries like Iraq be equipped with a way to disable them if they're compromised, without opening them up to hacking by an enemy?

    No. Next question.

    Any system that's trusted to grant or revoke capabilities must have done way to be authenticated. Any authentication system can be faked with sufficient knowledge. You can control how difficult faking the system can be, or how much knowledge is needed. But it cannot be eliminated.

    Could sophisticated military tanks and anti-aircraft missiles given or sold to countries like Iraq be equipped with a way to disable them if they're compromised, without opening them up to hacking by an enemy?

  • by TheMeuge (645043) on Thursday September 04, 2014 @11:46AM (#47826165)

    So what the enemy needs to do to win is to get disable codes?

    Given Pentagon's contractor efficiency and reporting requirements, the choices will probably be in a plaintext file accessible from the internet, in a budget report.

  • Re:Silly (Score:5, Insightful)

    by TheRaven64 (641858) on Thursday September 04, 2014 @11:47AM (#47826173) Journal
    The idea is to have a timer that would automatically disable the equipment unless it received an enable signal, either from a satellite or removable medium. It's possible to make such a system that is, at the very least, very difficult to tamper with. Many of the systems on tanks and so on are computer controlled and if the computers stop working then it's a lot less valuable. The goal of such systems is similar to that of crypto: it's not to prevent the enemy from ever using the tanks that they've stolen, it's to prevent them using them quickly. If you have a few weeks to bomb the stolen equipment before it can be used, and the enemy has to invest a lot of high-tech resources into cracking the systems, then that's probably good enough.
  • by AvitarX (172628) <me@brandywinehund[ ].org ['red' in gap]> on Thursday September 04, 2014 @11:47AM (#47826181) Journal

    I assumed it was like how pirates would steal ships, and then use them.

  • Here's an idea (Score:5, Insightful)

    by damn_registrars (1103043) <damn.registrars@gmail.com> on Thursday September 04, 2014 @11:49AM (#47826243) Homepage Journal
    How about we just stop invading other countries where we know people don't like to see Americans? If we had opted out of the second Iraq war, we could have saved thousands of lives, billions of dollars, and our own collective faces on the international stage. To top it all off we wouldn't need to be having this discussion at all. We didn't accomplish anything with that war.

    I know that is not a popular opinion here, but it is the truth.
  • Easiest "Fix" (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Dracos (107777) on Thursday September 04, 2014 @11:58AM (#47826417)

    Bring it all back home. For all the hullabaloo about letting technology getting into "enemy hands", including export restrictions, the "let's just leave a bunch of military hardware in the Middle East" scenario was apparently never considered a risk.

    Of course, it's too late now for the Mosul equipment, but the same thing could happen anywhere else in Iraq or Afghanistan.

    It's almost as if the belligerent, short-sighted idiots are still in charge.

  • by ChilyWily (162187) on Thursday September 04, 2014 @11:59AM (#47826437) Homepage
    Would you want a weapon that would only work if someone else said it was okay to use? It's been tried before but it does not work. BTW, did Thatcher herself figure the codes out? and disable them? I think that credit goes to good British Engineers and not to some politician.
  • Re:Like DRM? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by TWX (665546) on Thursday September 04, 2014 @12:10PM (#47826673)
    Several opportunities could have averted the disaster that is Iraq...

    Not left the country until we'd established a true core of military lifers with a culture to stand behind it.

    Collected all of the previous Iraqi military's weapons and not left them with the ex-soldiers that we fired.

    Not disbanded the previous Iraqi military, and instead molded them into the defense and Gendarmerie to actually keep the country from going into chaos post-defeat.

    Put enough boots on the ground that the country wouldn't have gone into chaos post-defeat.

    Not kicked-over the government so completely that its leader fled, leaving the power vacuum.

    Not invaded in the first place.
  • Re:Here's an idea (Score:5, Insightful)

    by m00sh (2538182) on Thursday September 04, 2014 @12:34PM (#47827111)

    How about we just stop invading other countries where we know people don't like to see Americans? If we had opted out of the second Iraq war, we could have saved thousands of lives, billions of dollars, and our own collective faces on the international stage. To top it all off we wouldn't need to be having this discussion at all. We didn't accomplish anything with that war. I know that is not a popular opinion here, but it is the truth.

    Under the sanctions, Iraqis were suffering. The child death rate was soaring, there were food shortages and there were thousands of deaths. The power of Saddam Hussein was actually growing and he was getting richer and more powerful while the population was suffering.

    Which was all caused by the first Iraq war which was the result of arming Saddam Hussein so that he would fight Iran. We were fighting Iran because they were hostile to us because of supporting the unpopular Shah dictator. We supported a military coup that put the Shah in power because oil was nationalized by then Iranian government. The Iranian government nationalized the oil fields because they were outright owned by foreign oil companies and didn't think it was fair. I don't know what happened before that.

    Just a chain of dick moves and greed all the way.

    Other nearby countries using their oil resources wisely have done very well and are the countries with the highest per capita.

  • Re:Like DRM? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday September 04, 2014 @12:35PM (#47827113)

    Or when they are being overrun they should just destroy the hardware so that it doesn't fall into enemy hands. Of course there is also an argument for why you don't sell hardware to unstable regions. Course we have a long history of doing it so stopping now would be problematic at best.

  • Re:No. (Score:4, Insightful)

    by bitslinger_42 (598584) on Thursday September 04, 2014 @12:57PM (#47827467)

    Sure, but if you want to disable them remotely, you have ton include a radio receiver. To disable the disable switch, I just have to damage/remove the receiver or its antenna so you can't get your signal to my weapon.

    Conversely, if you DO make the disable switch both remote and password-based, all I have to do is set up radio transmitters that try every possible password. Will I get every one? Not likely. Will I be able to cause enough of them to fail that countries stop buying them? Probably.

  • Re:Here's an idea (Score:3, Insightful)

    by kheldan (1460303) on Thursday September 04, 2014 @01:13PM (#47827629) Journal
    Sure thing buddy, great idea. Let's see how you feel about your own ideology when you wake up one morning to find Islamic Jihadists pointing guns at you and informing you that you need to convert to Islam, immediately, or face execution, or that you are now subject to Sharia Law whether you like it or not, and that your daughters will have acid thrown in their faces for having the gall to actually go to school to learn to read, write, and do math. As distasteful as it may be, you have to face the reality of the fucked-up world we're living in: There are people out there that hate you just because you exist, they don't care what your opinions are, they don't care what your politics are, they want you, your family, and everyone you know dead because their interpretation of their fucking religion (or their using religion as an excuse, you decide which is which) says that you're an abomination in the eyes of Allah and as such they have a duty to wipe you from the face of the earth. Of course I'll be shouted down now by a thousand assholes here on /. with rhetoric like 'it's all about money' or 'it's all about oil' or whatever, but the fact remains: We can't go back now. We abandon our allies based on idealism? We'll be abandoned in turn, hated even worse, and left to be destroyed. Sorry buddy, there's no turning back now.
  • Re:Like DRM? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Nimey (114278) on Thursday September 04, 2014 @01:28PM (#47827807) Homepage Journal

    You forgot one: not letting European colonial powers draw an arbitrary line and declare that "Iraq". As it is, the British created a country that was doomed by baked-in ethnic (Arabs, Kurds) and religious (Sunni, Shia) divisions.

  • Re:Like DRM? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by s.petry (762400) on Thursday September 04, 2014 @02:14PM (#47828427)

    "We" is the US and it's citizens which are responsible for putting politicians in office. "We" are responsible for educating people in society about basic concepts like Liberty and Freedom, and what a Republic is supposed to be. "We" are responsible for warning and educating people to tyranny and where it has taken hold in the US. "We" are responsible for demanding an end to the escalation of the Police state within our borders and the lack of protecting the same. "We" are responsible to take action, and "We" have not yet done so at scale.

    I am partially responsible for where we are today, and admit myself as part of the problem. I spend several hours a day doing my part to educate others to issues and educate myself to keep reality in focus. When will "you" admit to yours and do something other than claim it's that other guys fault?

Order and simplification are the first steps toward mastery of a subject -- the actual enemy is the unknown. -- Thomas Mann

Working...