Prepared by the CyberWire (Monday, October 2, 2017)—Developments in Signals and Space, from September 1st through September 30th.
North Korea makes good on its nuclear and missile test threats.
North Korea this month tested another long-range ballistic missile. The flightpath took it over Japan, to Japan's discomfiture, and the missile is generally thought to be capable of delivering a warhead to its target. Such doubts as to whether the system was capable of doing so seem now to have been false hopes.
Pyongyang also conducted another nuclear test. The device in this one is believed to have produced a yield of around 125 kilotons, which is reckoned to be large even by the standards of established nuclear powers. Reports differ as to whether it was a fusion weapon (a "hydrogen bomb") or a boosted implosion fission weapon. The reported yield is thought to render the latter possibility more likely. Most observers think that the device has been engineered into a deliverable weapon. This is often called "miniaturization," but in truth a weapon doesn't need to be all that large in the first place, physically, to function, and it needn't be all that small to be delivered by a missile.
North Korea's government and the US Government have been heavily engaged in a war of words, the two countries leaders calling one another, respectively, "dotard" and "rocket man." Kim's regime has promised to rain fire on the US, Japan, and South Korea. Of course, they've said things like this often enough in the past, but demonstrated possession of both weapon and delivery system are attracting more serious attention. The United Nations voted sanctions against North Korea, but these are milder than the United States and some of its allies would have wished. Strict, but short of the full embargo they desired.
Most discussion of the North Korean nuclear threat have focused properly on the risk it poses to human life. There is, however, an odd sort of gradualism behind much of North Korea's activity, which suggests that, should it actually decide to strike, it would do so in a way that's not immediately lethal. There have been warnings of the effects an underwater burst in the Pacific would have (fallout, at least). There's also a real but less-discussed possibility of a high-altitude weapon detonation designed to cripple electronic systems with electromagnetic pulse (EMP). Operators would do well to consider how their C4ISR might be hardened against EMP.
International response to North Korean tests.
The US has stepped up readiness in the Western Pacific and the Korean peninsula, fielding additional missile defense assets and patrolling in international airspace and waters close to the North Korean coast. China has shown signs of increased military readiness and talked about stiffer economic sanctions, but how stiff those sanctions actually are is a matter of some dispute.
South Korea and Japan have also increased readiness, and begun more serious investment into missile defense systems. The US Department has asked Congress to reprogram $416 million for missile defense.
Boeing executives have said that the US could shoot down any inbound North Korean ICBMs, but that's a large claim few are willing to credit at face value, even after recent successful tests of US missile defense systems.
Rising concerns over Iran's avowed missile and alleged nuclear programs.
Iran and the US continue their running dispute over whether Iran is already cheating on the nonproliferation agreement that country concluded with the US. The US alleges cheating and threatens cancellation of the agreement. Iran denies the charges and has increased work on it own missile systems in response to expressions of US hostility.
The two countries most concerned by the possibility that Iran is cheating are the US and Israel. Reports suggest that Israel is prepared for unilateral military action should Iran appear ready for a nuclear breakout. Many observers think the nonproliferation agreement flawed, but still better than the alternatives.
Cyber activity rises with kinetic tensions.
Sanctions have left North Korea with a very large unsold inventory of coal, the country's principal export. It's turned therefore to cybercrime to make up its financial shortfalls. This month much of the activity has been observed targeting the new and relatively poorly understood cryptocurrency markets. The Pyongyang-associated Lazarus Group is also being watched closely.
Iranian threat actors have also been busy, but their work has tended to espionage rather than theft. FireEye has been reporting on APT33, which Tehran has used to install spyware in its targets systems. Those targets have been for the most part Western defense and aerospace companies.
Many have asked what's become of US offensive cyber operations. Can't something like the Stuxnet malware used against Iranian uranium refinement centrifuges be deployed agains North Korea, at least? The answer is of course publicly unknown, but there've been few signs of such an offensive against DPRK missile and nuclear programs.
GPS worries, and attempts to assuage them.
The GPS spoofing incident that took place in the Black Sea early this summer continues to arouse concern. These concerns have been exacerbated by the US Navy's series of collisions over the past year. The Navy has gone to some low-tech recovery of manual navigational arts. The US Air Force is pursuing a high-tech approach. Air Force Special Operations Command has taken delivery of Rockwell Collins' Digital GPS Anti-Jam Receiver (DIGAR), said also to provide resistance to spoofing.
The month of September has seen news of both contract awards an aerospace industry consolidation.
The biggest acquisition news is Northrop Grumman's agreement to buy Orbital ATK. Northrop Grumman agreed to pay $7.8 billion in cash and assume $1.4 billion in debt with the acquisition. The merger will give Northrop Grumman considerable launch and satellite manufacturing capability. Orbital's stable of launch vehicles includes the Pegasus, Minotaur, and Antares rockets.
Boeing was quick to react to the news by saying that it, too, intended to be "a buyer," as Leanne Caret, CEO of Boeing Defense, Space and Security put it. She declined to say any more about acquisition plans, beyond remarks about the company's focus on growth. Boeing has contracted with SES to deliver seven medium-earth-orbit satellites.
Lockheed Martin has introduced its new family of satellite buses: LM 50 nanosat series, the upgraded LM 400 legacy small satellite bus, the mid-sized LM 1000, and the LM 2100, an enhanced version of the AS2100 bus.
In a cyber play, ManTech announced that it would acquire InfoZen, with plans to improve its position in the Federal IT modernization market.
The US General Services Administration has awarded a $2.5 billion indefinite delivery/indefinite quantity (IDIQ) contract with a ten-year period of performance to fifteen companies. The Complex Commercial SATCOM Solutions contract (CS3) is designed to enable Government organizations to purchase commercial satellite communications services easily under this GSA vehicle.
Check Point has been hired by Sky and Space, a nanosatellite telecommunications provider, to provide cybersecurity services to Sky and Space ground and space communication platforms.
Commercial space operations, and more business for both SpaceX and Blue Origin.
SpaceX continues to win business from competitors. It now has the launch contract for the Air Force's X-37B uninhabited spaceplane. Boeing formerly had the work, but SpaceX is now apparently the reliable low-cost launch provider. The X-37B flew on a Falcon 9 from Cape Canaveral on September 7th, just before Hurricane Irma hit Florida. SpaceX plans to have a fully reusable launch vehicle, one that would require little or no reconditioning before being returned to flight, sometime in 2018.
Thailand's mu Space, a start-up space operations company, has given its business to Blue Origin.
Rapid acquisition programs and continuing resolutions.
As Fiscal Year 2017 comes to a close, the US Congress will again keep the Government running with a continuing resolution as opposed to a formal budget. Some observers fear that the now-routine practice of continuing resolutions introduce an element of uncertainty into contracting that's inimical to innovation. There's risk enough in taking a shot already without adding budgetary uncertainty to the mix.
One of the more significant features of US Cyber Command's elevation to the status of a Combat Command is taken to be the access it will receive to rapid acquisition instruments. These are expected to give it an agility in procurement that won't be quite as nimble as the rapidly shifting technological environment in which CYBERCOM operates, but that's expected to help keep it closer to the cutting edge than legacy acquisition systems can.
NGA wants to share its data with you, if you'll share your cutting-edge tech with NGA.
An interesting offer was made by US National Geospatial Agency Director Cardillo this month. He's willing to sway NGA's data with companies in exchange for access to their creative technologies. NGA has a lot of data, and data are what industry needs, especially when it comes to training artificial intelligence.
Ambitions for the moon, or Mars.
With all the grim news surrounding Iran and (especially) North Korea, it's pleasant to turn to some of the more visionary plans for spaceflight.
Lockheed Martin unveiled its concept for a Mars mission (to be undertaken by NASA) at the 68th International Astronautical Congress (IAC) in Adelaide, South Australia. The company described its proposed Mars Ascent Descent Vehicle (MADV), a reusable lander for getting to (and getting back from) Mars. It also described its Mars Base Camp, which would orbit the Red Planet and enable exploration.
SpaceX of course isn't to be outdone, either. Elon Musk shared his company's vision for not only Moon Base Alpha, but Mars City.
Today's edition of the CyberWire reports events affecting Australia, China, Iran, Israel, Japan, the Democratic Peoples Republic of Korea, the Republic of Korea, Russia, Thailand, and the United States.
Alarm as North Korea fires missile over Japan(Times) North Korea fired a ballistic missile over Japan early this morning in a calculated gesture of defiance after the latest round of sanctions imposed by the United Nations security council. The...
The Cyber Security Mega Cycle Aftermath(Optiv) During the past decade, we have witnessed a virtual explosion in the cyber security world. While serving as CEO of McAfee and FireEye, and a U.S. Army commander and CIA director, respectively, we have lived through and witnessed first-hand exponential growth in: threats, threat actors, reported breaches, security vendors, investments in security companies and probably most significantly, private and public sector security spending.
Northrop Grumman to Acquire Orbital ATK for $9.2 Billion(Northrop Grumman Newsroom) Northrop Grumman Corporation (NYSE: NOC), a leading global security company, and Orbital ATK, Inc. (NYSE: OA), a global leader in aerospace and defense technologies, today announced they have entered into a definitive agreement under which Northrop Grumman will acquire Orbital ATK for approximately $7.8 billion in cash, plus the assumption of $1.4 billion in net debt.
Boeing Unveils ICBM Program Suppliers(Aviation Week) Boeing has assembled a non-exclusive supply base of 22 firms supporting its next-generation intercontinental ballistic missile program for the U.S. Air Force.
Australia to contribute to future NASA spacecraft(Defence Connect) A leading defence and aerospace prime confirmed its Australian team will have its virtual reality solution used on the CST-100 Starliner capsule, while also announcing its latest agreement with an Australian SME.
Data Link Solutions, ViaSat win more JTRS work(C4ISRNET) Data Link Solutions and ViaSat have been awarded increased ceilings for their contracts for Multifunctional Information Distribution System Joint Tactical Radio Systems (MIDS JTRS) terminals.
Retired Boeing satellite exec to head EO startup Hera Systems(SpaceNews.com) Roger Roberts ended an eight-year stint as the head of Boeing space and intelligence systems in 2005 as his unit’s marquee classified contract, the Future Imagery Architecture constellation of optical and radar reconnaissance satellites, was facing cancellation.
Jacobs wins DISA IT contract(C4ISRNET) The company will provide test, evaluation and certification support services at two Defense Information Systems Agency facilities.
Air Force awards cloud contract(C4ISRNET) The five-year $1 billion Cloud Hosted Enterprise Services contract was awarded to a team consisting of Dell EMC, General Dynamics and Microsoft.
Pentagon asks Congress to move $416M for missile defense(Defense News) The Pentagon is asking Congress to reprogram $416 million allocated for various military accounts to pay for missile defense programs as the Trump administrations mulls military responses to North Korea’s recent belligerence.
Congress Must Do More To Speed Up DOD Cyber Acquisitions(Law360) Millions of times each day, adversaries scan the U.S. Department of Defense’s networks seeking vulnerabilities. Because cyberthreats evolve so quickly and the DOD isn’t keeping pace, a catastrophic failure looms. Among the problems with the way this fight is being prosecuted are stifling acquisition procedures that make the DOD too slow for cyber.
AFSOC receives new anti-jam GPS receiver(C4ISRNET) Air Force Special Operations Command taken delivery of next-generation Digital GPS Anti-Jam Receiver (DIGAR) technology from manufacturer Rockwell Collins.
For the Air Force, it’s all about data(Defense News) As the Air Force looks at new unmanned platforms for the future, it will now be asking itself what types of data these platforms can provide and what answers they can give to commanders.
Protecting US assets in space(Defense News) Although the attention given to missile defense is warranted, protecting space assets cannot be ignored. At the Defense News Conference, leaders in both domains discussed the challenges involved in protecting some of America's most valuable assets.
DHS funds secure apps projects(Fifth Domain) The Mobile Application Security, or MAS, projects are part of the Mobile Security research program at DHS’s Homeland Security Advanced Research Projects Agency.
When is a cyber attack an act of war? We don’t know, warns ex-Obama adviser(VentureBeat) As warfare becomes increasingly digital, countries are facing a major problem: It's hard to define when a cyberattack constitutes an act of war. Avril Haines, a former deputy national security adviser during the Obama administration, said today that while there are established norms around what counts as a physical act of war, those same metrics don't exist for digital attacks.
U.S. allies in Asia welcome new sanctions on defiant North Korea(Reuters) Major U.S. allies in Asia on Tuesday welcomed the U.N. Security Council's unanimous vote to step up sanctions on North Korea, with its profitable textile exports now banned and fuel supplies to the reclusive North capped after its sixth nuclear test.
The Case for Caution With Iran(Foreign Affairs) A more aggressive U.S. approach to Iran would carry serious risks—not least placing Tehran and Washington on a path toward confrontation that would further destabilize the Middle East.
A Reset for Iran and the United States(Foreign Affairs) When it comes to Iran, the best option for the United States is also the least popular one: a long-term plan for repairing relations and resolving the Middle East's cold war.