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Pentagon innovates new weapons to ‘fight through’ next-gen cyberattacks

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The flight trajectory of ICBMs, targeting accuracy of an Abrams tank 120mm cannon, sharing of enemy location intelligence in real-time or the decreasing of critical sensor-to-shooter times for small arms, missile attacks, bomber strikes and other weapons systems … increasingly rely … on computer systems.

Therefore, the scope of impacts potentially delivered through cyberattacks continues to multiply in an exponential fashion, thus helping to explain the Pentagon’s current massive push to innovate new cyber resiliency tactics, techniques and technologies.

Part of the equation pertains to a recognition that cyber defenses must continue, if not even accelerate and increase in intensity after an attacker succeeds in gaining some kind of access or privilege on a system. This dynamic forms the key premise of cyber resilience which, unlike a pure cybersecurity approach, looks at cyberdefense beyond the perimeter or initial points of entry and boundaries of protection. The two are intertwined, yet cybersecurity and cyber resiliency are also somewhat distinct for this reason.

“A lot of technologies are focused on preventing attacks. We have put together technologies to recover files or recover critical memory. If an attack were to be detected, we want to fight through that attack and recover a system’s critical functions. Our R&D pushes the envelope in that direction,” Jacob Noffke, principal cyber engineer, Raytheon Intelligence and Space, told Warrior in an interview.

Given these realities, cyber resiliency needs to be multipronged, meaning protections need to involve various aspects of the system, such as hardware, software, operating system functionality and methods, and networks in a coordinated manner.

Noffke explained that Raytheon is now working internally on some new innovations aimed at securing both access to data through a cryptographically oriented hardware device called Boot Shield and an operating system information verification system called Countervail. The plan is to further refine these systems and collaborate with or offer them to the US military services.

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“Cyber resiliency involves many emerging requirements and is more than just hardening a system. Advanced adversaries will eventually find a way to gain access to a system, so it is critical for components of computing ecosystems to determine information they receive is authentic,” Noffke said.

While to a certain extent it seems self-evident or even obvious, yet securing data flow between systems, platforms and combat “nodes” continues to take on new levels of urgency, given that AI-empowered technologies, unmanned systems and advanced networking are exponentially improving sensor to shooter time. Data itself is, not surprisingly, increasingly becoming a cherished weapon of war. Intelligence information has of course always been of indescribable value, yet the current ability to change the “speed,” efficiency and precision of the combat-sensitive data transmission is fast evolving as a uniquely modern technical phenomenon.

The Army’s recent Project Convergence at Yuma Proving Grounds, Ariz., showed that the service now has the capacity to decrease sensor to shooter time from minutes … down to seconds. The breakthrough developments in Arizona could easily be characterized as contributing to a large portion of the Army’s involvement in the Pentagon’s Joint All Domain Command and Control (JADC2) effort.

Army program managers say the intent is “to integrate data management capability to better enable data flow across our networks, which will be critical as sensor to shooter data increases as part of CJADC2. Technology being explored includes AI/ML (Artificial Intelligence/Machine Learning) capability, cloud data storage at the edge, advanced tactical servers and processors and cross domain solutions,” Paul Mehney, director of communications, PEO C3T (Program Executive Office Command Control Communications-Tactical) told Warrior.

Accomplishing these tasks not only relies upon the secure “transmission” of data but must also enable strong protection of the data systems and computer processing mechanisms themselves. Many weapons developers now recognizing the growing complexity with which cyber defense technologies have been forced to embrace, a circumstance which continues to drive new industry innovators to find new generations of protection technologies.

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Virgin Hyperloop pod transport tests first passenger journey

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Virgin Hyperloop has trialled its first ever journey with passengers, in the desert of Nevada.

The futuristic transport concept involves pods inside vacuum tubes carrying passengers at high speeds.

In the trial, two passengers – both company staff – travelled the length of a 500m test track in 15 seconds, reaching 107mph (172km/h).

However, this is a fraction of Virgin’s ambitions for travel speeds of more than 1,000km/h.

Virgin Hyperloop is not the only firm developing the concept but nobody has carried passengers before.

Sara Luchian, director of customer experience, was one of the two on board and described the experience as “exhilarating both psychologically and physically” to the BBC shortly after the event.

She and chief technology officer Josh Giegel wore simple fleeces and jeans rather than flights suits for the event, which took place on Sunday afternoon outside of Las Vegas. Ms Luchian said the journey was smooth and “not at all like a rollercoaster” although the acceleration was “zippier” than it would be with a longer track. Neither of them felt sick, she added.

She said that their speed was hampered by the length of the track and acceleration required.

The concept, which has spent years in development, builds on a proposal by Tesla founder Elon Musk. Some critics have described it as science fiction.

It is based on the world’s fastest magnetic levitation (maglev) trains, then made faster by speeding along inside vacuum tubes.

The Maglev train speed world record was set in 2015 when a Japanese train reached 374mph in a test run near Mount Fuji.

Founded in 2014, Virgin Hyperloop received investment from the Virgin Group in 2017. It was previously known as Hyperloop One and Virgin Hyperloop One.

In a BBC interview in 2018, then Virgin Hyperloop One boss Rob Lloyd, who has since left the firm, said the speed would in theory enable people to travel between Gatwick and Heathrow airports, 45 miles apart on opposite sides of London, in four minutes.

Los Angeles-based Virgin Hyperloop is also exploring concepts in other countries, including a hypothetical 12 minute connection between Dubai and Abu Dhabi, which takes more than an hour by existing public transport.

Critics have pointed out that Hyperloop travel systems would involve the considerable undertaking of both getting planning permission and then constructing vast networks of tubes for every travel path.

Ms Luchian acknowledges the potential difficulties, saying: “Of course there’s a lot of infrastructure to be built but I think we’ve mitigated a lot of risk that people didn’t think was possible.”

She added: “Infrastructure is such an important focus for so many people in government. We know people are looking for solutions. They’re looking for the transportation of the future. We can keep building today’s or yesterday’s transport systems and keep encountering the same problems they bring or we can really look to build something that solves those problems.”

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Microsoft’s Windows 11 blue screen of death to become black

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Microsoft’s so-called blue screen of death (BSoD) will turn black in the new Windows 11 operating system, according to those with access to a preview of the software.

The screen appears when users have a problem on their computer, often prompting a restart.

A black background will replace blue, matching the logon and shutdown screens in the new system, the Verge reported.

The BBC has contacted Microsoft for comment.

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The BSoD allows IT professionals to diagnose hardware and memory issues.

It usually includes information and data that can help to analyse what problem caused the screen to appear.

In 2016, a QR code was added to it which users can scan to find out more information about the fault.

Windows 8 also added an unhappy face to the screen in 2012.

Photos of the new screen suggest both the QR code and 🙁 symbol will remain on the black version.

Windows 11

Windows 11 was launched last month and will be available as a free update to existing Windows 10 users – although some devices are unable to run the new system, which requires a minimum of 64 gigabytes of storage and 4 gigabytes of RAM.

Microsoft will wind down Windows 10 in 2025.

Another visual change is that the start button has been moved to the bottom centre of the screen from the bottom left.

Developers who are part of Microsoft’s Windows Insider Program – which gives them access to an early version of Windows 11 – revealed the black screen of death on social media.

Members of the program have also reported other issues, including installing the new system and using the start menu, according to Bleeping Computer.

Windows 11 will be available more widely later this year, but Microsoft has not given an exact date.

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Twitter will reopen applications for blue checkmark verifications next year

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Twitter said it will reopen applications for its famous blue checkmark verification process early next year after a more than three-year hiatus.

The bright blue badge is Twitter’s way of showing that accounts belonging to public figures have been verified to be real and not impostors, but the program was suspended in 2017 following confusion over how Twitter decides who gets the badge.

In a blog post, Twitter said it would be workshopping the application process, and is looking for public feedback on how its new policy will work.

Though it suspended the program in 2017, Twitter has continued to verify accounts, including medical experts and elected officials.

“Since [suspending the program], we haven’t been clear about who can become verified and when, why an account might be unverified, or what it means to be verified,” Twitter said in its post.

The “core types” of notable accounts Twitter will verify include government officials, entertainers, journalists and athletes.

Twitter said it also may verify accounts that meet other standards such as being one of the top-followed accounts in the user’s country and having “off-Twitter notability,” which could be assessed through Google search trends, Wikipedia references or coverage in news outlets.

The company said it may cut the blue badge from accounts that severely or repeatedly violate rules, such as its policies on hateful conduct, civic integrity or glorification of violence. But it said these removals would not be automatic and would be assessed case by case.

Twitter will also roll out a list of infractions that could see an applicant’s request for verification rejected, such as if the account has been associated with hateful content or with a group found to have committed “gross human rights violations.”

Twitter aims to introduce the final policy on Dec. 17. It also indicated plans for more ways for users to identify themselves with new account types and labels.

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