Prepared by the CyberWire (Wednesday, November 1, 2017)—Developments in Signals and Space, from October 1st through October 31st, 2017.
Economic sanctions against North Korea tighten.
Most countries have adopted stringent economic sanctions against North Korea, Russia being the most significant exception. As sanctions continue to bite, the DPRK has turned to large-scale cybercrime, conducted principally through the Lazarus Group, state-directed threat actors operating through infrastructure located for the most part in China and India. The Lazarus Group has been responsible for a number of high-profile wire transfer frauds.
The most recent attribution of a major hacking incident to North Korea came this month from the British government, which has placed responsibility for this year's WannaCry ransomware outbreak on the North Korean government. Pyongyang has denied the attribution and has threatened the UK with severe but unspecified retaliation.
Missile and nuclear proliferation.
The two nations drawing the most concern about proliferation are Iran and North Korea. With the future of the nuclear agreement with Iran in question, as the US considers increasing sanctions and Iran considers an accelerated missile development program, observers remain at a loss with respect to diplomatic approaches to resolving regional tensions. Tehran has announced testing of a new missile system, the Khorramshahr, an evolutionary improvement on the Shadhab series, ultimately derived from the Soviet-era Scud with the assistance of North Korean technology sharing.
The US has approved the sale of air defense missile systems to Saudi Arabia.
Matters in North Korea are more clear cut, and more ominous. The US and its regional allies Japan and South Korea have upgraded their readiness posture in East Asia, and, while Russia remains an irritant in US attempts to assemble a diplomatic coalition to contain North Korea's increasingly worrisome nuclear strike capability, there are small signs of a rapprochement between Beijing and Seoul.
North Korean nuclear tests have hitherto been conducted underground, but the country's leaders have spoken about testing a missile-launched weapon in a high air-burst over the Pacific. This suggests Pyongyang may be entertaining the use, or at least threatening the use, of a nuclear device as an electromagnetic pulse (EMP) weapon. Thermal and blast effects of a high-altitude detonation would be negligible, but could have devastating effects on electronics. Not only might ordinary command, control, communications, and computers be affected catastrophically by an EMP attack, but many believe that regional power grids themselves could be disrupted. If an EMP attack were to stress major hardware items to destructions, power grids could take months (by some estimates as much as eighteen months) to recover.
North Korea advancing solid-propellant technology.
North Korea is reported to be testing solid-propellant motors suitable for use in long-range strike missiles. Solid propellant is attractive for many reasons of safety, reliability, quick-reaction capability, and an ability to maintain high levels of readiness.
Missile defense research and development.
DPRK long-range missile tests have prompted the US and its allies to test deploy existing missile defense systems, but most defense observers would like to be able to repose more confidence in such systems. The US Department of Defense is undertaking a comprehensive review of missile defense R&D, with the intent of rendering a report to the President by the end of this year outlining the work necessary to advance a new generation of technologies as well as evolutionary enhancements of existing capabilities. Billions in spending are expected, details of which are expected to be forthcoming after the report has been released and assessed. One item believed to figure prominently in the Pentagon's wishes is $128 million for new Ground-Based Interceptor silos (perhaps as many as twenty) at Fort Greely, Alaska.
GPS and GPS alternatives.
The US continues to maintain and upgrade the Global Positioning System (of course), with the Air Force declaring the first Lockheed Martin produced GPS III satellite ready for launch. This final acceptance is the last milestone before the GPS III is flown in 2018.
Concerns about GPS reliability and availability, raised by evidence earlier this year of GPS signal spoofing in the Black Sea, have spurred ongoing work to develop alternatives. Northrop Grumman is testing one such alternative, a system the uses the company's All Source Adaptive Fusion (ASAF) software to guide aircraft in a GPS-denied or -degraded environment. The solution integrates "absolute (fixed) and relative (mobile) navigation technologies." Testing was carried out in cooperation with the US Air Force Research Laboratory and the Office of Naval Research. Northrop Grumman anticipates application of the technology to ISR, cargo delivery, targeting, and strike missions.
Battlefield communications look toward space (but also must function in cities).
US Services increasingly look toward space-based assets to provide reliable tactical-level communications. The Navy has awarded Raytheon a contract modification: $14.8 million for additional Navy Multiband Terminals.
The Army's long-standing program of record, WIN-T, remains, although it has been refocused and most of its elements renamed "tactical networks." In the near-term the Army expects to push secure satellite communications down to the tactical level.
It's also working to streamline its command posts, seeking to avoid the large and relatively fixed command-and-control establishments that have grown up as features over a decade and a half of counterinsurgency operations. One major program is the Command Post Computing Environment (CP CE) designed to provide a simpler, more perspicuous operating picture.
Much of the work directed toward such improvements has been prompted by a renewed sense of the importance of being able to fight peer or near-peer adversaries. Another concern is the realization that combat in the near future is likely to take place in urban areas. This has direct implications for cybersecurity, involving as it does a projected reliance on interaction with highly distributed networks whose endpoints include not only typical user communication devices, but also IoT sensors and drones.
Widely used commercial shipboard satellite communication systems found vulnerable to cyberattack.
Researchers at cyber firm IOActive found two serious vulnerabilities in an Inmarsat SATCOM platform widely used in the maritime shipping industry. AmosConnect 8 is susceptible to exploitation through a backdoor that could give an attacker full system privileges. It's also vulnerable to SQL injection though its login form.
AmosConnect 8 will not be patched. It reached its end-of-life in June, so users who wish for a more secure SATCOM solution will have to replace and upgrade their systems.
Commercial space services (launch and other).
SpaceX continues, apparently, to satisfy its customers. It believes itself on track to complete nineteen launches during 2017. The company on October 9th launched ten Iridium satellites aboard a Falcon 9 flow from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. On October 11th another Falcon put a communications satellite into orbit from Cape Canaveral, Florida. And in November the company intends to fly an undisclosed payload for Northrop Grumman. Called "Zuma," the nature of the mission has not been publicly disclosed.
The US Air Force has awarded SpaceX $40.7 million to continue development of its advanced Raptor engine.
Big aerospace integrators Boeing, Northrop Grumman, and Lockheed Martin are expected to reinforce their investment in space services, products, and solutions. Honeywell, which had considered divesting its defense and aerospace business, has changed its mind, deciding instead to double down.
More acquisitions follow last month's pick-up of Orbital ATK by Northrop Grumman. Boeing has purchased two companies with expertise in autonomous and uninhabited flight systems: Aurora and Near Earth Autonomy. Polaris Alpha, based in Colorado Springs, bought Denver's Solidyn Solutions, which specializes in engineering and cloud-based solutions for Defense and Intelligence Community customers.
Today's edition of the CyberWire reports events affecting China, the European Union, Iran, the Democratic Peoples Republic of Korea, the Republic of Korea, Russia, Saudi Arabia, the United Kingdom, and the United States.
North Korea denies involvement in WannaCry cyber attack(The Financial Express) North Korea has slammed Britain for accusing it of being behind a global ransomware attack that hit the National Health Service, calling the allegation a "wicked attempt" to further tighten international sanctions against Pyongyang.
Cyber security 1: Satellite constellations' mass markets come with vulnerability(Space Intel Report) Cyber security experts said the arrival of multiple satellite constellations threatens to make satellite networks just as vulnerable as terrestrial systems, with potentially disastrous consequences. The democratization of the satellite sector — many players, off-the-shelf technologies and a “build your own satellite” approach — is likely to wipe out the advantage …
New missile test feared as S. Korea-US drill starts(The Straits Times) South Korean military officials are preparing for another possible missile launch by the North as a five-day joint military drill with the United States kicks off today.. Read more at straitstimes.com.
Top Pentagon contractors keen on space business(SpaceNews.com) Top defense firms with large space portfolios like Lockheed Martin, Boeing and Northrop Grumman are likely to benefit as space increasingly is viewed as a “contested environment” where the United States will be challenged by rising powers.
Orbital ATK Had Another Bidder Before Northrop(Aviation Week) An unidentified company bid for Orbital ATK before Northrop Grumman succeeded in securing the space, missiles and munitions provider last month for $9.2 billion, according to new securities filings and analysts who covered the ...
Raytheon Unveils New Mexico Engineering Hub for Range Monitoring, Telemetry Systems(ExecutiveBiz) Raytheon has unveiled a new engineering facility at the Sandia Science and Technology Park in Albuquerque, New Mexico, to support the production of monitoring and telemetry systems for U.S. and allied forces. The company said Monday it expects to create up to 60 high-technology manufacturing positions at the new 72,000-square-foot engineering facility over the next six years. It represents...
Harris to Develop Battlespace Comm Network for Asia-Pacific(American Security Today) Harris Corporation has received a $260 million order to develop an integrated tactical communications network as part of an Asia-Pacific country’s modernization program. The integrated network solution will include tactical radios, network planning, monitoring and routing software, and other systems and technology from Harris and partnering companies. (The Harris Falcon III® AN/PRC-158 Multi-channel Manpack (MCMP) …
US joint surveillance plans could be scrapped in days(Defence IQ) A decision on whether to cancel the US Air Force’s long-awaited E-8 JSTARS (Joint Surveillance Target Attack Radar System) recapitalisation programme may be made public at the end of October, according to comments made by USAF Secretary Heather Wilson.
Mercury Systems Receives $4.7M in Orders for Airborne Electronic Protection RF Microelectronics(GlobeNewswire News Room) Mercury Systems, Inc. (NASDAQ:MRCY) (www.mrcy.com) announced it received $4.7 million in orders from a leading defense prime contractor for high performance radio frequency (RF) subsystems integrated into an advanced airborne electronic protection system. The order was booked in the Company’s fiscal 2018 first quarter and is expected to be shipped over the next several quarters.
Air Force develops plan to mitigate cyber threats(Dayton Business Journal) Cyber resiliency has become a real challenge for the U.S. Air Force as it continues to deal with new threats that require advanced approaches. Fortunately, the Air Force has developed a "Cyber Campaign Plan" that addresses this challenge.
Army wants next-gen situational awareness sensors(C4ISRNET) Under a contract with the Army’s Night Vision and Electronic Sensors Directorate, Lockheed Martin will create a multi-modal sensor fusion testbed for technologies to enhance rotary-wing aircraft pilots in GPS-denied and degraded visual environments.
Turkey's New Missiles(Foreign Affairs) Alliance members who are concerned about the integrity of Turkey’s democratic institutions should work toward rebuilding their relationship with Ankara.
Satellite Communications Go Tactical(SIGNAL Magazine) U.S. military satellite communications is expanding to provide greater coverage of the tactical environment as part of its overall mission to serve the land, sea and air domains.
Iran’s New Missile A Tweak, Not A Breakthrough(Breaking Defense) Apparently following North Korea’s playbook for getting under the skin of President Trump, Iran wheeled a new missile, named the Khorramshahr, through Tehran during a parade last week on Friday, held to commemorate the 1980 start of the Iran-Iraq war.
The Cyber Cold War(Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists) Is the Cyber Mission Force prepared?
Let’s not risk a Cold War in space(San Francisco Chronicle) As we note this month Sputnik's 60th anniversary, which launched the space race between the Soviet Union and United States, it's worth considering whether we're on the cusp of another Cold War, but this time in space. Some 10,000 miles above the Earth's surface, conflicts between the United States and China could break out over orbiting satellites, which enable everything from your cell phone calls to bank transactions to GPS navigation.
Russia throws North Korea lifeline to stymie regime change(Reuters) Russia is quietly boosting economic support for North Korea to try to stymie any U.S.-led push to oust Kim Jong Un as Moscow fears his fall would sap its regional clout and allow U.S. troops to deploy on Russia's eastern border.
US clears THAAD sale to Saudi Arabia(Defense News) The U.S. State Department has cleared a potential $15 billion request for Saudi Arabia to purchase the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) missile defense system.