Summitry: US-DPRK summit is in the books. US-Russian summit coming in July.
US President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un met as planned in Singapore on June 12th. Their meeting was brief (and much spied upon, with security companies noting a lot of Russian cyberespionage attempts, and many dodgy USB drives handed out to journalists as swag) and issued in an agreement marked by four general points:
1. "The United States and the DPRK commit to establish new U.S.-DPRK relations in accordance with the desire of the peoples of the two countries for peace and prosperity."
2. "The United States and the DPRK will join their efforts to build a lasting and stable peace regime on the Korean Peninsula."
3. "Reaffirming the April 27, 2018 Panmunjom Declaration, the DPRK commits to work towards the complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula."
4. "The United States and the DPRK commit to recovering POW/MIA remains including the immediate repatriation of those already identified."
These are general agreements, short of specifics. The outcome of the summit is believed to have been generally popular in South Korea, where people both approve of a commitment to denuclearize the peninsula and are reassured by recent tough talk by the US President with respect to the DPRK. President Trump did place joint US-Republic of Korea military exercises on hold, which has attracted negative comment in the US and apparently aroused concerns in Japan. He also said that North Korea remained a threat to peace, and that relaxation of sanctions would have to await some good behavior from Pyongyang.
The summit as expected concentrated on nuclear issues, with cybersecurity not significantly touched on, and North Korea's familiar campaign of state-directed cyber threat resumed quickly after the meetings concluded. A modus vivendi in cyberspace will await further talks. In the meantime optimists are getting a bit ahead of themselves by imagining the economic development opportunities a reformed North Korea might present. It's nice to be hopeful, but this is very premature.
Having finished with Kim, President Trump will move on to a summit with Russia's President Putin, scheduled for July in Helsinki, Finland. NATO members (whose antennae are already quivering from President Trump's signals that he intends to come down hard on alliance members at a NATO summit for not meeting their defense spending commitments) are expressing concern that the US will be rolled by Russia, and conclude some unwise peace agreements. Still, NATO doesn't want a return to the full-on Cold War, at least according to Secretary General Stoltenberg, as close as the Atlantic Alliance and Russia seem to have approached that condition. Warnings at month's end of apparent Russian staging of attacks on infrastructure abroad would seem to make a general relaxation of tensions unlikely.
Cyber and kinetic threats to satellites.
A report by Symantec suggests that Chinese intelligence services have worked hard to make inroads into Western satellite communications systems, establishing persistent modes of cyberespionage that affect commercial and government spaceborne comms backbones. This discovery coincides with an observed increase in Chinese espionage, both cyber and traditional, directed at US targets.
Development of satellites capable of approaching and manipulating other spacecraft has also increasingly come to be seen as threatening. While such work in several countries is generally described as being directed toward developing an in-orbit repair or recovery capability, it hasn't gone unnoticed that a satellite able to approach, touch, and manipulate another satellite could just as easily be used to kill as it could be used to cure.
US Space Force moves closer to reality.
President Trump, evidently impatient with the slow pace of action on space matters, announced at a National Space Council meeting on June 18th that the US would form a Space Force. As he put it while signing Space Policy Directive 3, "We are going to have the Air Force, and we are going to have the Space Force, separate but equal. It is going to be something. So important." Details, of course remain to be worked out, but in outline the projected Space Force would be responsible for defending US space assets, whether government or commercial.
There are a variety of models to choose from, most of which have been considered by Congress, which has run ahead of the Pentagon in seeing the need for a new service. Since any such Force would draw personnel and assets from the existing military services, the least disruptive model would be a new Combatant Command, formed much the way US Cyber Command was. Or (and much Congressional speculation has run along these lines) the Space Force could be formed as a distinct Service within the Department of the Air Force. In this case the model would be the Marine Corps's status within the Department of the Navy. Or, most ambitiously, a Space Force might get its own Service Department, co-equal within the Department of Defense to the Departments of the Army, Navy, and Air Force. Or there may be some other sort of arrangement.
The Department of Defense (especially the Air Force part of it) has been cool to the notion of a Space Force. Defense sees the prospect of a new Service as likely simply to add an expensive layer of administrative overhead, and the Air Force thinks it's done quite well with space on its own, thank you very much. What form the new Space Force will take remains to be seen, but as an Ars Technica essay points out, it's not necessarily an otiose notion. There are real missions it could be assigned, and no one is really contemplating Space Marines or Starship Troopers.
The most benign and science-fictive of those would be planetary protection—tracking near-earth objects and fending off collisions. Another benign mission, and one called out in Space Policy Directive 3, although not there explicitly assigned to a Space Force, would be traffic management in an increasingly crowded orbital zone: tracking, situational awareness, and information sharing. This mission is likely to be the most significant in the near term. And of course there's an incipient space race and potential space arms race brewing with China and Russia. China especially has shown interest in developing effective orbital weapons, and there's talk of a new competition to return to the moon.
In any case both Russia and China have expressed displeasure over the notion of an American Space Force.
Concerns about Chinese espionage.
Relations between China and at least two of the Five Eyes (the US and Australia) are currently strained by trade disputes and concerns over the security risks Chinese firms may pose should they continue to be allowed to assume important roles as technology providers. The two companies most cited as security concerns are Huawei and ZTE. It's widely believed that both are so close to the Chinese military and intelligence establishment as to constitute reliably cooperating auxiliaries. US sanctions against ZTE, based on the company's evasion of sanctions against rogue states including Iran and North Korea, brought the company to the brink of collapse until it was offered a tentative "lifeline" by the US Administration that's enabled it to retain precarious status as a going concern. The action against ZTE would have prevented it from gaining access to US technology it depends on, especially Qualcomm chipsets and Google's Android OS. Congress is less forgiving than the President, however, and may well withdraw the lifeline by legislation.
Huawei is receiving similar scrutiny. US Federal agencies are said to be quietly briefing government and commercial customers of both Huawei and ZTE on the potential threat those companies' products pose to their security. Huawei has been receiving intense and mostly unfriendly scrutiny in Australia, where its bid to play a major role in building out that country's 5G telecom network is very much in jeopardy. Australia's security organizations have apparently been briefed on Huawei by their counterparts in the UK, whose experience with the company has been mixed.
Launch market shifts.
Russia is retiring its venerable and once reliable Proton launch vehicle, whose operational history extends back to the 1960s. Proton's reliability had declined over the last ten years, with problems attributed to poor quality control during manufacture. The Angara vehicle that will succeed it will have the advantage of using a more benign propellant than the murderously toxic and corrosive nitrogen tetroxide and unsymmetrical dimethylhydrazine the Proton burned, but it's not clear that Angara will offer the commercially attractive costs of a Proton launch. Russia will certainly retain its launch capability, but Roscosmos is sufficiently pinched financially that it seems unlikely to be able to compete effectively with SpaceX, whose Falcon vehicles have disrupted the launch market.
SpaceX flew the last of its Falcon 9 Block 4 launch vehicles on June 29th. The Block 5 follow-on systems promise at least ten flights each, with refurbishment and turnaround in weeks as opposed to months. The US Air Force has also certified the Falcon Heavy; it will carry the Air Force Space Command-52 payload to orbit in 2020.
Northrop Grumman's acquisition of Orbital ATK is now complete, with all necessary approvals, and the company has been hailed as a serious player in space operations markets where it had struggled to establish itself.
Virgin Orbit is poised to compete with Orbital ATK's Pegasus in the air-launched rocket business. The company's LauncherOne is described as aspiring to be an affordable workhorse. Nothing showy, but reliable and not too expensive.
Development of US cyber operational doctrine.
US Cyber Command this month acknowledged that it had received the necessary authorities to conduct offensive cyber operations under proper circumstances. The template for such operations is said, initially, to be modeled on the campaign against ISIS, where cyber operations were used, minimally, for mission assurance, intelligence collection, disruption of hostile networks, and targeting.
Cyberspace is still young enough as an operational domain that a full strategy has yet to be worked out. A number of observers, noting that attempts at both deterrence and international norms that would restrain cyber conflict appear to have been less than successful, advise conducting an exercise similar to President Eisenhower's Project Solarium of 1953, when the President assembled three competing teams to work through various approaches to great power and nuclear competition with the Soviet Union. Project Solarium resulted in a strategy of containment that persisted more-or-less through the end of the Cold War in 1991.
Asgardia says it's joined the family of nations.
In space, of course. Not to be confused with Asgard, ruled by Odin and approached by a rainbow bridge guarded by Heimdal, (That would be the warrior of the Aesir, not the Danish cybersecurity company, which guards other things.) Asgardia is led by democratically elected "Head-of-Nation" Dr. Igor Ashurbeyli, a Russian billionaire with lots of self-confidence and a utopian bent. About 200,000 people voted in elections that began last year. Not just anyone can become an Asgardian. There's a selection process, and Head-of-Nation Ashurbeyli says they're considering using IQ tests as one aspect of that selection. Dr. Ashurbeyli is aware that many are skeptical, but he calmly assures skeptics that he himself is entirely realistic. Whether Asgardia will fare better than ventures like the Principality of Sealand or the Republic of Awesome, to which unkind observers compare it, remains to be seen.
Today's edition of the CyberWire reports events affecting Australia, Belarus, China, Greece, Israel, Japan, the Democratic Peoples Republic of Korea, the Republic of Korea, Macedonia, NATO/OTAN, Poland, Romania, Russia, and the United States.
How Vulnerable Are U.S. Satellites to Cyberattacks?(MeriTalk) While political and military leaders debate the pros and cons of whether the United States needs a separate “Space Force,” Chinese hackers have offered a reminder of two truths: operations in space are extremely important, and the assets used in space are vulnerable to cyberattack.
Attack Vectors in Orbit: The Need for IoT and Satellite Security in the Age of 5G(TrendLabs Security Intelligence Blog) Already a vital part of the critical infrastructure of the internet, satellites are set to take on a more significant role with the emergence of 5G cellular network technology and the continuing expansion of the internet of things (IoT). While terrestrial networks handle peak load well, disaster handling and critical infrastructure scenarios are served well by satellites, which are unaffected by most ground-based events. Ensuring the security of satellites, therefore, acquires even greater importance and warrants more initiatives to that end.
Chinese hackers steal sensitive Navy program data(Fifth Domain) Cyberattacks sponsored by the Chinese government infiltrated a U.S. Navy contractor’s computers, allowing digital thieves to access sensitive data related to secret Navy projects on a submarine anti-ship missile.
The relationship of industry and an evolving NATO(Defense News) Defense News spoke to Chris Lombardi, vice president for Raytheon International, to get his take on NATO priorities leading up to the Brussels Summit, and how industry can best serve evolving security requirements.
Aerospace company Orbital ATK bought by Northrop Grumman(Room, The Space Journal) The U.S. Federal Trade Commission has announced it has approved Northrop Grumman's $9.2 billion purchase of defense and space contractor Orbital ATK as a new business unit named Northrop Grumman Innovation Systems
Google pledges not to use AI for weapons or surveillance(C4ISRNET) Google pledged Thursday that it will not use artificial intelligence in applications related to weapons, surveillance that violates international norms, or that works in ways that go against human rights. It planted its ethical flag on use of AI just days confirming it would not renew a contract with the U.S. military to use its AI technology to analyze drone footage.
Thales to launch first defence cloud for armed forces(@businessline) Thales is launching a defence cloud offering for the armed forces. The solution by the defence major is expected to enable armed forces to stay connected with any device at any time and operate with c
Leonardo wins big contract for next-gen computing system(C4ISRNET) Leonardo DRS has won a five-year indefinite-delivery, indefinite-quantity contract worth as much as $841.3 million to produce the U.S. Army mission commands next-generation combat computing system, the company announced June 7.
Lockheed to Continue Development of the Navy's Aegis Systems(SIGNAL) Lockheed Martin Corp., Rotary and Mission Systems, Moorestown, New Jersey, was awarded a $78,356,122 not-to-exceed, cost-plus-incentive-fee, cost-plus-fixed-fee letter contract for Aegis development and test sites operation and maintenance at the Combat Systems Engineering Development Site, SPY-1A Test Facility and Naval Systems Computing Center, Moorestown, New Jersey.
What’s next for the Navy in space?(C4ISRNET) The Program Executive Officer Command, Control, Communications, Computers and Intelligence, as well as Space Systems, discusses what the Navy’s next task on orbit might be.
The course load for the Air Force’s cyberwarriors(Fifth Domain) The Air Force's 39th Information Operations Squadron and its detachment at Joint Base San Antonio – Lackland address the increasing need for cyber training by co-locating and integrating the training community with operators.
Army trying to keep up with ‘changing character of war’(FederalNewsRadio.com) As the Army shifts its focus from violent extremist organizations to near-peer adversaries per the national defense strategy, staying on top of emerging domains and technologies will be what keeps it in a position of dominance going into the future.
How Iran Will Determine the Nuclear Deal's Fate(Foreign Affairs) Iran's foreign policy decision-making process is not a simple top-down exercise by the Supreme Leader but the result of a complex push and pull within a web of organizations.
North Korea pledges to destroy missile test engine site(Military Times) The Trump administration on Thursday identified the missile test engine site that it says North Korea has pledged to destroy, but the president’s latest comments about resolving the nuclear standoff have raised new questions about what concessions Pyongyang has made.
North Korea, China discuss 'true peace', denuclearization: KCNA(Reuters) North Korea's Kim Jong Un and Chinese President Xi Jinping came to an understanding on issues that were discussed at a summit between the two leaders, including denuclearization of the Korean peninsula, the North's state media said on Wednesday.
US: No sanctions relief before North Korea denuclearizes(Military Times) The United States will not ease sanctions against North Korea until it denuclearizes, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Thursday, as he reassured key Asian allies that President Donald Trump had not backed down on Pyongyang’s weapons program.
Plotting a Space (Force) Time Continuum(The Cipher Brief) President Donald Trump’s recent announcement that he is asking the Pentagon to create a new ‘Space Force’ caught many off guard. In particular, many at the Pentagon who will be tasked with plotting the way ahead.
Why the United States needs a Space Force(SpaceNews.com) Military professionals who concentrate on space needed their own organization to truly focus their efforts on a singular task — to protect and defend U.S. and allied interests in space.
The Trump self-defense doctrine for the new space era(SpaceNews.com) In the face of emerging novel threats and vulnerabilities, whether the self-defense doctrine allows us to counter the threat before the attack occurs can make the difference between peace and war.
This is why the Pentagon is taking over security clearance checks(Military Times) The Defense Department is poised to take over background investigations for the federal government, using increased automation and high-tech analysis to tighten controls and tackle an enormous backlog of workers waiting for security clearances, according to U.S. officials.
Mattis declares vigilance to be the best cyber defense(Federal Times) Secretary of Defense James Mattis has issued a memo warning the department’s employees of the consequences for poor cyber hygiene in a world where secrets can fall into the hands of digital intruders.
NGA’s first chief technology officer steps down(C4ISRNET) As CTO, Vinci reported directly to the director and deputy director of NGA, as opposed to the chief information officer. Vinci’s role focused on increasing the NGA’s ability to use and integrate new technology.