The Great War – World War I – raged through Europe and the Middle East 100 years ago. These are some of the most unbelievable photos of troops and tech from the “War to End All Wars.”
Losing incredible photos to history could happen for any reason. Perhaps there were so many, these were rejected by publications, locked away in a box for us to find a century later. Or maybe they were just the personal keepsakes of those who fought the war. Whatever the reason, we can marvel at what wartime life was like, both in and out of the trenches.
Soldiers on all sides are more than just cannon fodder. These photos show people’s hearts, souls, and personal beliefs. They show the innovation on the battlefield – the gruesome killing power of the world’s first industrialized war. They also show the efforts made to improve technology that could save lives by ending the war.
Most of all, it shows that we who fight wars are still human, no matter which side of the line we maintain.
1. This listening device.
Before the advent of radar, aircraft had to be located by hearing the direction from which the aircraft approached. The horns amplified sound and the tech would wear headphones to try to pinpoint the location of the incoming enemy.
2. Holy rolling.
German infantryman Kurt Geiler was carrying his bible when a four centimeter piece of shrapnel embedded itself in the book, likely making a lifelong Christian out out of Geiler.
3. Lady Liberty takes 18,000 soldiers.
This depiction of the Statue of Liberty was made to drive war bonds and is made up of 18,000 troops – 12,000 just for the torch, which is a half mile away.
4. Realities of war.
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder affected troops even 100 years ago. Called “shell shock” at the time, up to 65,000 troops were treated for it, while thousands of others were charged with cowardice for it. Blasts from shells would leave lesions on the brain, resulting in symptoms similar to traumatic brain injuries (TBI) experienced by post-9/11 veterans.
5. This Austro-Hungarian war face.
This war face would make Gunnery Sergeant Hartman proud. It looks like William Fichtner’s great-grandfather.
6. These Italian troops mummified by the cold.
The next time you complain about being in formation in the winter, remember it could always be worse. These Italians froze in the Alps, fighting Austrians.
7. This gay couple flaunting DADT before it was controversial.
Proof that DADT was garbage in the first place.
8. This pigeon is ready for your close up.
Both sides used animals for reconnaissance and communication. Pigeons were especially useful for their homing ability and attitude.
9. This woman looks ready to take the whole German Army.
There’s so much so-called “great man history,” that we often forget about women’s contributions. Women worked in many industrial areas during the Great War. Look at this photo and realize most of you couldn’t chop wood all day on your best day.
10. This incredibly brave little girl.
Where are this girl’s parents? This is 1916, and child rearing was slightly tougher back then, but that’s still unexploded ordnance. (Europeans still find unexploded bombs from both world wars.)
11. This is the “Ideal Soldier.”
This propaganda photo depicts what the French public thought the ideal French soldier looked like.
12. These Vietnamese troops who did not fit #11’s profile.
A total of 92,411 Vietnamese men from what was then called French Indochina were in the service of France and were distributed around Europe, of which around 30,000 died.
Comprised of more than 100 islands in the East China Sea, Okinawa is one of Japan’s 47 prefectures with a population of 1.44 million people (as of May 2018).
A year-round warm climate and overall tropical landscape, Okinawa is considered a leading resort destination and home to multiple U.S. military installations. Here are five ways to explore the archipelago.
Eat and drink
There is no shortage of places to enjoy good food in Okinawa and nearly every type of international cuisine is represented.
“You have to try Coco’s Curry House, Arashi, Pizza In The Sky, Yoshi Hachi, Sea Garden, Gen, Thai In The Sky and Little Cactus,” KT Genta, a Navy spouse who was previously stationed in Okinawa shared.
Craving a good cup of coffee? Stop into Patisserie Porushe, and be sure to order a croissant to go with it.
The traditional spirit of Okinawa is Awamori, which dates back to the dynastic era, and is made by combining water, test and rice malt with korokoji mold and steamed rice. Get a free tour and tasting at Chuko Distillery.
Historical sites and landmarks
The history of Okinawa is robust — from dynasties to American rule — and the various historical site and landmarks throughout the prefecture tell the region’s story. Be sure to visit:
Okinawa Peace Memorial Park– Located on Mabuni Hill, Peace Memorial Park was a heated battleground during WWII.
Japanese Naval Underground Headquarters – During WWII, Japanese forces constructed an elaborate series of underground tunnels that were used as military headquarters.
Katsuren Castle Ruins – Just a couple in-ruin walls remain at this UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The Tower of Himeyuri – The emotional monument honors the Himeyuri medical corps of female students who perished in WWII.
Ikema Ohashi Bridge– A 4,675 ft. bridge with panoramic views of the ocean, it connects the islands Miyako-jima to Ikema-jima and was formerly the longest bridge in Okinawa.
Beaches and water sports
Trademarked by cerulean shaded waters, Okinawa’s beaches are world-renowned for enjoying a sun-soaked day on the sand or diving in to admire the marine life. Both public and private beaches pepper the coastline, and with hundreds of beaches to choose from across the main and more remote islands, there is a stretch of sand for everyone to enjoy.
Northern Okinawa Island – Uppama Beach, Kanucha Beach, Ie Beach
Central Okinawa Island – Zanpa Beach, Ikei Beach
Southern Okinawa Island – Aharen Beach, Nishibama Beach
Not only does Okinawa offer residents and visitors pristine beaches, the underwater views are attractive for avid divers and snorkelers. Top spots include Manza Dream Hole, Zamami Island and Kabira Bay.
Okinawa is a destination with deep-rooted cultural history, thus a strong appreciation for traditional and performing arts.
Yachimun – The Okinawan name for pottery is Yachimun and can be traced back to more than 800 years.
Bashofu – Made from the fibers of a Japanese banana-like tree call the Basho, Bashofu is a thin textile that is woven and dyed to make into garments.
Sanshin – The literal translation of Sanshin is “three strings” and is a musical instrument that looks a bit like a banjo.
“There is so much to do,” Genta said. “Head to Cocoks for pedicures, hike Hiji Falls, explore Bise Village, which is a peaceful seaside town with sand roads lined with Fukuhi trees, or just drive and get lost. There are so many hidden gems on the island.”
Other must-see spots include Churmai Aquarium, Pineapple Park, Orion Beer Factory, Urashima Dinner Theater, Kokusai Street and Fukushu-en Garden.
This is just a small sampling of ways to explore Okinawa. It’s important to note that one could live their entire life in Japan’s tropical oasis and not see or do everything, so be sure to make the most of your time and have fun!
Andrew Jackson’s future as a badass started at the tender age of 13 during the Revolutionary War. He joined the Continental Army as a courier and was taken prisoner along with his brother Robert in April 1781.
When a British officer ordered him to spit shine his boots during captivity, Jackson refused. Not amused by the boy’s defiance, the redcoat drew his sword and slashed Jackson’s left hand and head, which left him with a permanent scar. The brothers were released from captivity after two weeks as part of a prisoner exchange, but Robert died within days due to an illness contracted during detention. Another one of Jackson’s brothers and his mother died before the war ended, leaving him with a lifelong hatred toward the Brits.
Jackson earned the nickname “Old Hickory” because he used to carry a hickory cane, which doubled as a weapon. He dished out his most famous cane beating to Richard Lawrence, who attempted to assassinate him while Jackson was serving as President. Lawrence approached Jackson with two pistols —plan A and plan B—both of which misfired. After noticing he was out of danger, Jackson proceeded to beat Lawrence to a bloody pulp.
Jackson was known for being a serial duelist; historians estimate “Old Hickory” participate in anywhere between 13 and 100 duels. (That is too many duels by any standard.) Jackson fought his most famous duel in 1806 against Charles Dickinson, who was an excellent shot. Despite knowing about Dickinson’s pistol prowess, Jackson insisted that he fire first. This American Heroes Channel video illustrates the events leading to the duel and why he gets our vote for ‘most badass American president.’
Remember the greatest scene in Iron Man in 2008? No, it’s not when Tony Stark says “I am Iron Man” and it’s not when he first tests the suit. It’s the part when Jeff Bridges yells at that random dude: “Tony Stark was able to build this in a cave!! With a box of scraps!” And now that bizarrely specific diss has created the entire evil scheme from Spider-Man: Far From Home.
Pretty much everyone — including the audience — misses Tony Stark in Spider-Man: Far From Home. Iron Man, the world’s premiere superhero and young Peter Parker’s mentor, sacrificed himself to save the world at the end of Avengers: Endgame and the new Spider-Man film sees Spidey, along with everyone else, dealing with a post-Blip, post-Iron Man world. However, there are some characters from Iron Man who make appearances in Far From Home, including one character whose inclusion is much, much more surprising than Happy Hogan or Nick Fury’s — especially once you realize who plays him.
The big twist in Far From Home comes when Quentin Beck, a.k.a. Mysterio (Jake Gyllenhaal) reveals that he’s not actually a superhero from an alternate dimension. Instead, he’s a disgruntled ex-employee with a grudge against Tony Stark. He’s aided by other former employees, including a face who only appeared once in the MCU, 11 years ago, but it was a very, very memorable and meme-able moment.
Tony Stark was able to build this in a cave…with a box of scraps
Yes, it’s the “Box of Scraps” guy, or to be more accurate, the guy that Jeff Bridges’ Obadiah Stane was screaming at because he couldn’t miniaturize Tony’s Arc reactor in order to power the Iron Monger suit. William Ginter Riva was a scientist at Stark Industries in 2008 when Stane, growing increasingly power-mad, ordered him to do what Tony did.
“I’m sorry I’m not Tony Stark,” Riva squeaks back.
That one scene was all viewers ever saw of Riva, whose name they didn’t even know at the time, and chances are, nobody expected to see him again. That’s why it was such a shocker that he appeared by Mysterio’s side, having also adopted a grudge against Tony Stark.
Perhaps more than anybody except for Beck, Riva was responsible for Mysterio. Beck’s hologram technology — which Tony rechristened B.A.R.F. to Beck’s dismay — provided the illusions and visuals, but Riva’s drones provided the destruction. It was Riva who programmed most of the provided choreography for the Mysterio fights, and it was his drones that actually destroyed parts of Mexico, Venice, Prague, and London. For a character who appeared in one minor scene, Riva is incredibly important to Far From Home, and the MCU at large.
Stark Foundation Presentation | Captain America Civil War (2016) Movie Clip
Riva is clearly a bad guy, which means he should be getting coal for Christmas. That’s a tragedy since the character is, amazingly, played by Peter Billingsley, who is best known for playing Ralphie in A Christmas Story.
Yes, the kid from the 1983 holiday classic A Christmas Story grew up to become a Stark Industries employee, and later, a weapons designer who aided a supervillain in killing and deceiving people.
In the real world, Billingsly has been acting here and there in the decades since his most iconic role (Christmas movie fans might recognize him as Buddy the Elf’s superior in the Will Ferrel-led Elf), but he’s mostly moved behind the camera. Billingsley has numerous production, writing, and directing credits for film and especially TV. He was actually an executive producer for 2008’s Iron Man, which might explain why he popped in for that small little role. (He’s not listed as a producer for Far From Home, however).
So, there you have it. A minor character from one of the MCU’s most beloved moments 11 years ago appeared unexpectedly more than a decade later to be a surprisingly important villain in Spider-Man: Far From Home, and he was played by the Christmas Story guy a whole time. Heck, he almost shot Spider-Man’s eye out!
This article originally appeared on Fatherly. Follow @FatherlyHQ on Twitter.
A United States Navy EP-3E Aries electronic surveillance plane had a near-collision with a Chinese fighter in the East China Sea. The incident is the latest in a series of close calls between Chinese and American military assets.
According to a report by FoxNews.com, a Chinese Chengdu J-10 “Firebird” fighter armed with air-to-air missiles flew under the EP-3 and pulled up about 300 feet in front of the Navy plane, forcing it to make an evasive maneuver to avoid a collision.
The incident reportedly took place in international airspace, about 90 miles from Qingdao, headquarters of China’s North Sea Fleet.
According to GlobalSecurity.org, the North Sea Fleet includes some of China’s most powerful assets, including a number of the nuclear-powered submarines in service with the People’s Liberation Army Navy. The incident came days after Adm. John Richardson, the Chief of Naval Operations, spoke with his Chinese counterpart about North Korea.
The United States and China have been involved in a number of incidents in recent months. This past May, another pair of J-10s had a close encounter with a Navy P-3 Orion maritime patrol aircraft, coming within 200 yards of the plane, and making slow turns in front of the plane.
Also in May, the crew of an Air Force OC-135W Constant Phoenix radiation surveillance plane were on the receiving end of a “Top Gun” intercept that the Department of Defense characterized as “unprofessional.” In 2001, a J-8 “Finback” collided with an EP-3E, killing the Chinese pilot, and forcing the EP-3E to make an emergency landing at a Chinese airfield.
The United States has carried out a number of “freedom of navigation” exercises in the region, including a passage within six miles of Mischief Reef. China has threatened to fine ships that do not obey its maritime edicts in the South China Sea, a major maritime flashpoint.
While not as prominently in the news as the South China Sea, the East China Sea is also the location of territorial disputes, notably the Senkaku Islands, which both Japan and China claim.
Professional pain-factory John Wick (Keanu Reeves) is back for a sequel. And once again, there’s a whole cadre of well-dressed people who want him dead.
In anticipation of the film’s release on Feb. 10, We Are The Mighty talked to director Chad Stahelski and stunt coordinator and Army vet J.J. Perry about John Wick’s gunplay style, and how they made mag changes cool.
I am in a scotch and cigar club and occasionally I’ll bake something for the crew. Last week I decided to make stout brownies with a stout frosting. These were such a hit that I was politely told that they had replaced my usual chocolate chip cookies at the top of the favorites list.
For those who are not that familiar with stout beer, stout is a dark beer commonly associated with undertones of coffee or chocolate. The word stout itself was first used in 1677 in the “Egerton Manuscript” and implied a strong beer. You may have heard the term porter which—for much of history was used interchangeably with the word stout—and was used to describe a dark beer. The word porter was first used in 1720 to describe “the thick and strong beverage…consumed by the working class.” Nowadays, in an age of craft breweries, there is a distinction between the two: brewers have come to a consensus that porters are made with malted barley while stouts are brewed with unmalted barley. Historically, stouts were the strongest of beers, 7-8% alcohol by volume (ABV) but don’t have to be! Guinness Draught, the world’s best-selling stout is 4.1-4.3% ABV.
This recipe calls for you to reduce the stout (Guinness or any other type of stout) to 2/3 of its original volume. I made these in the morning before work and I thought this wouldn’t take very long but I was late to work that day on account of slowly simmering beer for longer than expected at 7:00am.
one 12 oz bottle stout beer (you could use Guinness, I found Founder’s Breakfast Stout at Grove Market)
3/4 cup unsalted butter
8 oz. semi-sweet chocolate chunks (I like the kind from Trader Joe’s)
1 and 1/4 cups sugar
3 large eggs
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
optional: 1/2 teaspoon espresso powder
1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
2 cups confectioners’ sugar
2-3 Tablespoons reduced stout (from step 1)
1 teaspoon espresso powder
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon salt
In a small saucepan, bring the stout to a boil over medium-high heat. Once boiling, lower to medium heat and allow to simmer until reduced down to 2/3 cup, about 20 minutes. Set aside to cool for at least 10 minutes. You will use 1/2 cup in the brownies and the rest in the frosting.
Preheat the oven to 350°F and grease a 9×9 inch pan and line with parchment paper, leaving an overhang on the sides to lift the finished brownies out. Set aside.
Place the butter and chocolate in a large microwave-safe bowl. Melt using the microwave on high in 30 second increments, whisking after each, until completely smooth. Mix in the sugar and 1/2 cup of reduced stout until completely combined. Whisk in the eggs and vanilla extract. Finally, whisk in the flour, salt, and espresso powder. The batter will be thick and shiny. Pour and spread evenly into prepared pan.
Bake for 35 minutes, then test the brownies with a toothpick. Insert it into the center of the pan. If it comes out with wet batter, the brownies are not done. If there are only a few moist crumbs, the brownies are done.
Remove from the oven and place on a wire rack to cool completely before frosting and cutting into squares.
In a large bowl using a handheld or stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment, beat the butter on high speed until completely smooth and creamy, about 2-3 minutes. Add the confectioners’ sugar, beating on low at first then increasing to high speed. Once creamy and combined, beat in the remaining reduced stout, the espresso powder, vanilla extract, and salt.
Taste. If it’s too thick, you can thin it out with a bit of milk. If it’s too thin, add more powdered sugar. Frost cooled brownies.
Cover and store leftover brownies at room temperature for up to 1 week but if your friends are anything like mine, you won’t have any leftovers.
Every so often Hollywood makes a military movie that’s so compelling in the eyes of the audience that it helps shape how they view the world. War stories in general display how dangerous life can be for those serving on active duty — mostly in the infantry.
But from time-to-time, some minor aspect of these films call out to movie-goers and motivate them to serve.
So we asked several veterans what movies made them want to join the armed forces and here’s what they told us.
One of the most insane rollercoaster rides of World War II consisted of an airplane snatching a soldier off the ground and taking him from zero to 125 mph in seconds.
In July 1943, the Army Air Force decided it needed a way to pick up downed pilots. After all, this was long before helicopters and the only way to get home was with ground troops. The idea they came up with was a modification to a mail pickup system, where a plane could fly low and slow and pick stuff up off the ground using steel cable.
According to the CIA, the service did initial tests picking up weighted containers, which accelerated over 17 g’s — not exactly survivable for a human being. With modifications, this was brought down to 7 g’s, although the first live test (using a sheep) failed after the harness twisted and strangled the poor unsuspecting animal.
Luckily, the Army had crazy paratroopers in its midst that volunteered (or were voluntold, it is the Army after all) to give it a whirl. The first was named Lt. Alex Doster. The CIA writes:
Lt. Alex Doster, a paratrooper, volunteered for the first human pickup, made on 5 September 1943. After a Stinson engaged the transfer rope at 125 mph, Doster was first yanked vertically off the ground, then soared off behind the aircraft. It took less than three minutes to retrieve him.
The Air Force continued to improve the system, even developing a package containing telescoping poles, transfer line, and harness that could be dropped by air. The first operational use of the system came in February 1944, when a C-47 snagged a glider in a remote location in Burma and returned it to India. Although the Air Force never used it to pick up individuals, the British apparently did use it to retrieve agents.
The system evolved into the Skyhook system, a joint venture between the Air Force and the CIA.
When it comes to uniform variety, the US Air Force is definitely the least inventive of all the branches. The USAF carries the standard work option, OCPs, along with a more professional office version. When things get really fancy, the Air Force just ditches the flight cap and dons a white shirt instead of the blue – and that’s about it. No swords for officers, no Class-As, no khaki, no whites.
But it wasn’t always that way.
The Air Force used to have a ton of different uniforms.
From 1947 to 1995, the Air Force used a white version of its dress uniform for those in tropical zones, an easy way to keep cool while maintaining a professional appearance when necessary. The first fully-Air Force regulated white uniform featured a white coat, shirt, and pants, but with black shoes and blue tie, along with blue mess dress cap (aka the “bus driver” hat), complete with Air Force “farts and darts” on the brim.
For social events, the hat was gone, white gloves were added, and black bow ties replaced the blue necktie. Eventually that gave way to a new uniform, once the Air Force was completely free of Army uniforms in 1959.
In 1959, this uniform became officially known as the Tropical Dress Uniform, which included a coat very similar to the blue coat of the regular Air Force and was made of a Dacron-rayon blend instead of the Army’s cotton uniform. It was mandatory wear in tropical climates, but also at diplomatic functions, dinners, and anywhere else a white coat was the prescribed dress for the event. The blue mess cap was replaced by a white mess cap with an Air Force blue band around it and the black shoes were replaced with white ones.
By 1983, the Air Force introduced a new white uniform, the White Ceremonial Dress uniform, which was gone by 1989. Many aspects of the White Ceremonial Dress Uniform can still be seen on today dress blues, especially for officer ranks as the white ceremonial dress uniform was optional for lower enlisted personnel.
But whether tropical or ceremonial, the end of the white uniform came in 1995, when they were all phased out in favor of a simplified blue version for all locales and functions. The only formal uniform that remains in the Air Force is the Mess Dress Uniform, which is now drastically different from its ceremonial predecessors.
The Air Force plans to be able to incinerate targets such as incoming missiles with laser weapons mounted on C-17s by 2023 as part of a directed energy developmental effort, service official said.
The High Energy Laser, or HEL, is being tested by the Air Force Directed Energy Directorate, Kirtland Air Force Base, N.M. Ground tests are slated for later this year as part of a plan to precede air-launched laser weapons firing evaluations, Mica Endsley, Air Force Chief Scientist, told Military .com in an interview.
The first ever ground test of the weapon is slated to take place at White Sands Missile Range, N.M., said Othana Zuch, an Air Force spokeswoman.
Service officials are working on a solid-state laser guidance mechanism and focus so the weapon can stay on track on a particular target.
“We’re working on maturing a lot of those kinds of technologies,” Endsley said. “We will be transitioning into airborne platforms to get them ready to go into a program of record by 2023.”
Endsley added that the Air Force plans to begin firing laser weapons from larger platforms such as C-17s until the technological miniaturization efforts can configure the weapon to fire from fighter jets such as an F-15, F-16 or F-35.
The Air Force is interested in firing the weapon from sub-sonic, transonic, and supersonic platforms, Zuch added.
Aircraft-launched laser weapons could eventually be engineered for a wide range of potential uses including air-to-air combat, close-air-support, counter-UAS, counter-boat, ground attack and even missile defense, Air Force official said.
“The application will be things like being able to defeat an incoming missile for example, so that as opposed to a kinetic kill that would blow up that weapon the laser will basically melt through the metal and electronics using these non-kinetic techniques,” Endsley added.
The first airborne tests are expected to take place by 2021, Zuch added.
The developmental efforts are focused in increasing the power, precision and guidance of existing laser weapon applications, Endsley added.
“We want to put those capabilities in to a system that will move from something like 10 kilowatts up to 100 kilowatts — up to greater power. We will work on things like guidance, control and precision,” she said.
Energy to fire aircraft lasers is engineered to come from on-board jet fuel to potentially enable thousands of shots, Endsley added.
“The real advantage is it would have a much more extended magazine. Today’s have five, six, seven missiles. With a directed energy weapon you could have thousands of shots with a gallon of gasoline – a gallon of jet fuel,” she said.
Of course, this isn’t the first time the Air Force has tried to mount a laser to an aircraft. The service tried to design an aircraft with a laser in the nose cone for missile defense purposes with a different style laser.
The Airborne Laser program featured a megawatt-class chemical oxygen iodine laser. It was tested in the nose cone of a Boeing 747–400 Freighter. Air Force officials say they are now benefiting from the technological efforts of its previous ABL program.
However, Defense Secretary Robert Gates killed the program in 2009 when he said it was unaffordable and questioned if it would ever be feasible.
“The ABL program has significant affordability and technology problems, and the program’s proposed operational role is highly questionable,” he said in 2009 when he announced the end of DoD funding for the program.
Its vulnerability reminded me of a conversation I had two years ago, at the Web Summit conference in Lisbon with cybersecurity investor Sergey Gribov of Flint Capital. He was talking up one of his investments, an industrial cybersecurity firm based in Israel called CyberX. Half-bored, I girded myself for his pitch. They usually go like this: “The internet is full of hackers! They want to steal your data and your money! If only companies used my company’s awesome product, we would all be safe!”
I have heard hundreds of pitches like this.
But my conversation with Gribov was different. It was … extreme. The criminals who break into the web sites of banks or chainstores and steal personal data or money are not the scariest people out there, he told me. The hackers we really ought to be worrying about are the ones trying to take entire countries offline. People who are trying to take down the internet, switch the lights off, cut the water supply, disable railways, or blow up factories.
The West’s weakness is in the older electronics and sensors that control processes in infrastructure and industry. Often these electronics were installed decades ago. The security systems controlling them are ancient or non-existent. If a hacker can gain control of a temperature sensor in a factory, he — they’re usually men — can blow the place up, or set it on fire. “The problem people don’t realise is it becomes a weapon of mass destruction. You can take down a whole country. It can be done,” he said.
And then, how do you respond? Does the country that was attacked — the one struggling to get its power grid back online — launch nukes? Probably not, he said, because “you have no idea who did it.”
“You can have a team of five people sitting in a basement and be just as devastating as WMDs,” he said. “It’s really scary. In some sense it’s a matter of time because it’s really easy.”
At the time, I discounted my conversation with Gribov. His VC fund was invested in CyberX, so he had an obvious interest in propagating the idea that the world is full of bad guys.
But in the years since we talked, two unnerving things happened.
In December 2017, three men pleaded guilty to causing the largest internet outage in history – a distributed “denial of service” attack that blacked out the web across most of the US and large chunks of Northern Europe for about 12 hours. They had disabled Dyn, a company that provides Domain Name System (DNS) services — the web’s directory of addresses, basically — to much of the internet.
“Someone is learning how to take down the Internet,” Bruce Schneier, the CTO of IBM Resilient believes
Both attacks were conducted by relatively unsophisticated actors. The Dyn attack was done by three young men who had created some software that they merely hoped would disable a competitor’s company, until it got out of control. The Mauritania attack was probably done by the government of neighbouring Sierra Leone, which was trying to manipulate local election results by crippling the media.
Three major power suppliers simultaneously taken over by hackers
Next, I talked to Nir Giller, cofounder and CTO of CyberX. He pointed me to the December 2015 blackout in Ukraine, in which three major power suppliers were simultaneously taken over by hackers. The hackers gained remote control of the stations’ dashboards, and manually switched off about 60 substations, leaving 230,000 Ukrainians in the cold and dark for six straight hours.
“It’s a new weapon,” Giller says. “It wasn’t an accident. It was a sophisticated, well-coordinated attack.”
The fact that the hackers targeted a power station was telling. The biggest vulnerabilities in Western infrastructure are older facilities, Giller believes. Factories, energy plants, and water companies all operate using machinery that is often very old. New devices and software are installed alongside the older machinery, often to control or monitor it. This is what the industrial “internet of things” looks like. Hackers don’t need to control an entire plant, the way they did in Ukraine. They only need to control an individual sensor on a single machine. “In the best-case scenario you have to get rid of a batch” of product, Giller says. “In the worst case, it’s medicine that is not supervised or produced correctly.”
CyberX has done work for the Carlsbad Desalination Plant in California. It claims to be the largest seawater desalination plant in the US. And it serves an area prone to annual droughts. Giller declined to say exactly how CyberX protects the plant but the implication of the company’s work is clear — before CyberX showed up, it was pretty easy to shut down the water supply to about 400,000 people in San Diego.
2010 was the year that cybersecurity experts really woke up to the idea that you could take down infrastructure, not just individual companies or web sites. That was the year the Stuxnet virus was deployed to take down the Iranian nuclear program.
“Stuxnet in 2010 was groundbreaking”
The principle behind Stuxnet was simple: Like all software viruses, it copied and sent itself to as many computers running Microsoft Windows as it possibly could, invisibly infecting hundreds of thousands of operating systems worldwide. Once installed, Stuxnet looked for Siemens Step7 industrial software. If it found some, Stuxnet then asked itself a question: “Is this software operating a centrifuge that spins at the exact frequency of an Iranian nuclear power plant that is enriching uranium to create nuclear weapons?” If the answer was “yes,” Stuxnet changed the data coming from the centrifuges, giving their operators false information. The centrifuges stopped working properly. And one-fifth of the Iranian nuclear program’s enrichment facilities were ruined.
“Stuxnet in 2010 was groundbreaking,” Giller says.
Groundbreaking, but extremely sophisticated. Some experts believe that the designers of Stuxnet would need access to Microsoft’s original source code — something that only a government like the US or Israel could command.
Russia is another state actor that is growing its anti-infrastructure resources. In April 2017 the US FBI and the British security services warned that Russia had seeded UK wifi routers — the little boxes that serve wireless internet in your living room — with a hack that can read all the internet traffic going through them. It’s not that Vladimir Putin wants to see what you’re looking at on Pornhub. Rather, “What they’re doing there is building capability,” says Andrew Tsonchev, the director of technology at Darktrace Industrial, a London-based cybersecurity firm that specialises in artificially intelligent, proactive security. “They’re building that and investing in that so they can launch attacks from it across the world if and when they need to.”
A simple extortion device disabled Britain’s largest employer in an afternoon
Then, in 2017, the Wannacry virus attack happened. Like Stuxnet, Wannacry also spread itself through the Microsoft Windows ecosystem. Once activated, it locked up a user’s computer and demanded a ransom in bitcoin if the user wanted their data back. It was intended as a way to extort money from people at scale. The Wannacry malware was too successful, however. It affected so many computers at once that it drew attention to itself, and was quickly disabled by a security researcher (who ironically was later accused of being the creator of yet another type of malware).
During its brief life, Wannacry became most infamous for disabling hundreds of computers used by Britain’s National Health Service, and was at one point a serious threat to the UK’s ability to deliver healthcare in some hospitals.
The fact that a simple extortion device could disable Britain’s largest employer in an afternoon did not go unnoticed. Previously, something like Stuxnet needed the sophistication of a nation-state. But Wannacry looked like something you could create in your bedroom.
A screenshot shows a WannaCry ransomware demand.
Tsonchev told Business Insider that Wannacry changed the culture among serious black-hat hackers.
“It managed to swoop across, and burn down huge sectors in different countries for a bit,” he says. “In the course of that, the shipping industry got hit. We had people like Maersk, and other shipping terminals and operators, they went down for a day or two. What happened is the ransomware managed to get into these port terminals and the harbours that control shipping … that intrigued attackers to realise that was something they could deliberately try and do that wasn’t really in their playbook at that point.”
“Oh look, we can actually start to do things like take down manufacturing plants and affect the global shipping industry”
“So this year, we see follow-on attacks specifically targeting shipping terminals and ports. They hit the Port of Barcelona and the Port of San Diego and others. That seemed to follow the methodology of the lessons learned the previous year. ‘Oh look, we can actually start to do things like take down manufacturing plants and affect the global shipping industry.’ A couple years ago they were just thinking about stealing credit card data.”
But it may have taught North Korea something more useful: You don’t need bombs to bring a nation to its knees.
Oddly, you have a role to play in making sure this doesn’t happen. The reason Russia and North Korea and Israel and the US all got such devastating results in their attacks on foreign infrastructure is because ordinary people are bad at updating the security software on their personal computers. People let their security software get old and vulnerable, and then weeks later they’re hosting Stuxnet or Wannacry or Russia’s wifi listening posts.
National security is, somehow, about “the absurdity of the mundane,” says Tsonchev. “These little annoying popups [on your computer] are actually holding the key to national security and people are just ignoring them. Individuals have a small part to play in keeping the whole country safe.”
So if you’re casting about for a New Year’s resolution right now, consider this one: Resolve to keep your phone and laptop up to date with system security software. Your country needs you.
An F-117 Nighthawk is headed to the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library December 2019 and will call the Simi Valley, California, hillside its permanent home.
The Reagan Foundation and manufacturer Lockheed Martin announced Nov. 4, 2019, that the single-seat, twin-engine stealth aircraft will be on display just outside the library, next to an F-14 Tomcat.
The restored jet, tail number 803, will be unveiled during the annual Reagan National Defense Forum on Dec. 7, 2019.
“The Reagan Library will now be one of two places in the nation where the general public can visit an F-117 Stealth Fighter on permanent display,” said John Heubusch, executive director of the Ronald Reagan Presidential Foundation and Institute.
“We are deeply grateful to Lockheed Martin for their outstanding assistance in restoring the aircraft for such a meaningful display and to the U.S. Air Force for making it possible for the Reagan Library to exhibit the plane for millions of visitors to enjoy for years to come,” he said in a news release.
An F-117 Nighthawk.
Nicknamed the “Unexpected Guest,” the jet going to the library flew more combat sorties — 78 — than all other F-117s combined, according to the release. It entered service in 1984.
Another F-117 is on public display at the National Museum of the United States Air Force in Dayton, Ohio.
According to officials, Lockheed produced 59 operational F-117s and five developmental prototypes, beginning in 1981. The U.S. didn’t publicly acknowledge the stealth attack plane — capable of going after high-value targets without being detected by enemy radar — until 1988, even though a few crashed during trials.
“The F-117 was developed in response to an urgent national need,” said Jeff Babione, vice president and general manager of the Lockheed Martin Skunk Works, the division that designs and engineers advanced development projects, which are typically highly classified.
“It has paved the way for today’s stealth technology and reminds us to continue redefining what’s possible,” Babione said in the release. “It’s been a privilege for our team to collaborate with the [Air Force] and the Reagan Foundation on this effort, and we are excited to see it on proud display at its new home.”
Congress gave authority in 2007 and 2008 to retire a total of 52 F-117s from the inventory but wanted them maintained so they could be recalled to service if they were needed for a high-end war, an official previously told Military.com.
“I was privileged to fly the airplane when the program was classified,” said retired Lt. Col. Scott Stimpert, the pilot for tail number 803. “It was an exciting time, and a vitally important capability, but not something you could share with friends or family. I’m glad the airplane can come out of the dark to take its rightful place in the light, somewhere it can be seen and appreciated by the people it helped to protect.”
This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.