'Kill Switch' Feared By Pentagon
In the 1982 movie Star Trek: The Wrath of Kahn, Khan Noonien Singh took over a small space cruiser, the USS Reliant. He then sidled up close to the USS Enterprise, put up the Reliant's shields, attacked and disabled the Enterprise, and demanded that Kirk, Spock, et al, surrender. Fortunately, Spock was able to send a special code to the Reliant's computer, which provided them with a kind of backdoor to shut down the Reliant's shields, thereby saving the day.
It turns out that the Pentagon is becoming increasingly concerned that something similar might happen with components outsourced around the globe. A 'kill switch' or other form of backdoor placed in any of the many chips that allow advanced aircraft to function would be disastrous.
According to recent articles, this kind of scenario is appearing with some frequency:
Last September, Israeli jets bombed a suspected nuclear installation in northeastern Syria. Among the many mysteries still surrounding that strike was the failure of a Syrian radar—supposedly state-of-the-art—to warn the Syrian military of the incoming assault. It wasn't long before military and technology bloggers concluded that this was an incident of electronic warfare—and not just any kind.
Post after post speculated that the commercial off-the-shelf microprocessors in the Syrian radar might have been purposely fabricated with a hidden “backdoor” inside. By sending a preprogrammed code to those chips, an unknown antagonist had disrupted the chips' function and temporarily blocked the radar.
I seem to recall these same concerns voiced several decades ago, when America outsourced all of its chip fabrication overseas, along with large parts of its electronics development.
I'd be surprised if the Pentagon had not put some sort of controls in place; I don't think it is possible to remedy the situation now.
For those military security officers who were born too late to have seen The Wrath of Khan when it first came out, they must have seen some of the new Battlestar Galactica series. As I recall, the Cylons ensure that an essential navigation program used by Colonial warships has backdoors that allow them to effectively 'kill' these ships in mid-flight.
From The hunt for the kill switch via Wired; thanks to Moira for suggesting this item.
Scroll down for more stories in the same category. (Story submitted 5/5/2008)
Follow this kind of news @Technovelgy.
| Email | RSS | Blog It | Stumble | del.icio.us | Digg | Reddit |
you like to contribute a story tip?
Get the URL of the story, and the related sf author, and add
Comment/Join discussion ( 9 )
Related News Stories -
Poland Starts With 1000 Warmate 'Suicide Drones'
'Royal Security had told the pods to electrocute you or blast you into chum.' - Neal Stephenson, 1995.
TIKAD Armed Drone Ready To Fight
'Each a television eye and a sonic stunner...' - Larry Niven, 1972.
LaWS Laser Can Take Out Rogue Drones
Looks like a weapon for the Runaway squad!
Keith Laumer's Bolo Autonomous Tanks Right On Schedule
'I cannot lie idle under attack.' - Keith Laumer, 1976.
Technovelgy (that's tech-novel-gee!)
is devoted to the creative science inventions and ideas of sf authors. Look for
the Invention Category that interests
you, the Glossary, the Invention
Timeline, or see what's New.
Orwell's Memory Hole Looms Larger Thanks To Nvidia
'All history was a palimpsest, scraped clean and reinscribed exactly as often as was necessary.'
Pipefish Robot Checks Pipes Cheap
Just like capsule endoscopy, but for bigger pipes. That go underground.
Nifty New SDS Space Debris Sensor For ISS
'Their radars... could easily pinpoint the debris of the early Space Age.'
NanoRacks Space Station Module Concept Validated
Space junk into space architecture.
Nuclear Drones Could Fly For Years
'I sent my eyes on their rounds and tended my gallery of one hundred-thirty changing pictures...'
SciFiQ Science Fiction Writing Aid
'Books were just a commodity that had to be produced, like jam or bootlaces.'
Robot Only Faster, Not Better, At Recycling
'Whenever a robot finds something it can't identify straight off... it puts whatever it is in the hopper outside your window.'
Poland Starts With 1000 Warmate 'Suicide Drones'
'Royal Security had told the pods to electrocute you or blast you into chum.'
Dream Of Building Your Own Rocket?
Fiorello Bodoni, you inspire all of us.
Zero Mass 'Vaporators' Pull Drinking Water From The Air
Did you think of Star Wars?
Elon Musk Fears A 'Fleet-Wide Hack' Of Autonomous Vehicles
'Khan grinned. 'It's alive! Bu-wahhahahah!''
China Melts Tibetan Permafrost To Plant Forest
'Can you give us a microwave spotlight?'
iFlytek Doctor Robot First To Pass Medical Exams
Doctor shortage? No problem, we'll just use the autodoc.
Slaughterbot AI KIller Quadcopter Drones
'The real border was defended by... a swarm of quasi-independent aerostats.'
Do We Really Want Backflipping Robots?
Also includes wonderful blooper reel.
RNA-Based Biocomputing Device
Living things can sense and analyze complex signals in living cells.
More SF in the News Stories
More Beyond Technovelgy science news stories