This white-hat hacker catfished a bunch of defense information security experts - We Are The Mighty
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This white-hat hacker catfished a bunch of defense information security experts

One day Thomas Ryan, who worked as a white-hat hacker and cyber security analyst, created an entire social media background and history for Robin Sage, an attractive 25-year-old girl who claimed to be a cyber threat analyst at the Naval Network Warfare Command in Norfolk, Virginia.


This white-hat hacker catfished a bunch of defense information security experts

Her Twitter Bio read: “Sorry to say, I’m not a Green Beret! Just a cute girl stopping by to say hey! My life is about info sec all the way!”

“Robin” had great credentials for a 25-year-old woman. She was a graduate of MIT with a decade of experience in cybersecurity, and she knew how to network very effectively. Ryan purposely chose a relatively attractive woman because he wanted to prove how sex and appearance plays in trust and willingness to connect. He pulled the photo from an amateur porn site, looking for someone who didn’t look American.

This white-hat hacker catfished a bunch of defense information security experts
Some other possibilities considered by Ryan . . .

Robin added 300 friends from places like military intelligence, defense contractors, and other security specialists. She also connected on LinkedIn with people working for a former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and at the National Reconnaissance Office, the U.S. spy satellite agency. The most vital information was leaked through LinkedIn.

She duped men and women alike (but mostly men) without showing any real biographical information. Within two months time (December 2009-January 2010), she acquired access to email accounts (one NRO contractor posted information on social media which revealed answers to security questions on his personal e-mail), home addresses, family information, and bank accounts. She learned the locations of secret military installations and was able to successfully determine their missions. She received documents to review, she was invited to speak at conferences, and she was even offered consulting work at Google and Lockheed.

There were many red flags, especially the claim to have worked in Infosec since age 15. Her job title didn’t exist. Her online identity could only be traced back 30 days. Her name is based on a U.S. Army training exercise. Ryan says some in the Infosec community were skeptical and tried to verify her identity but no real alerts were made about just how deceptive the Robin Sage profile really was, and so this greatest example of “fake it ’til you make it” went on as Robin continued to win friends and influence people. This exercise was not popular with everyone in the INFOSEC community.

This white-hat hacker catfished a bunch of defense information security experts

Ryan wrote a paper, called “Getting in Bed With Robin Sage,” which described the extent of how the seemingly harmless details in social media posts were as damaging as the information given to her freely by those who sought her opinion. Robin Sage was more successful at networking and getting job offers than any recent college graduate I’ve ever heard.

This white-hat hacker catfished a bunch of defense information security experts
I can be anything, I’m a Phoenix!

The only agencies with people who never took the bait were the FBI and the CIA. Ryan told the Guardian, “The big takeaway is not to befriend anybody unless you really know who they are.”

NOW: The 5 most dangerous hackers of all time

OR: The 6 most shocking military impostors ever

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Today in military history: US-Soviet hotline is agreed upon

On June 20, 1963, America and the Soviet Union agreed to create a direct hot-line connecting the Soviet premier and the American president.

By 1963, both Americans and Russians feared the Cold War could go hot at any moment. The two nations backed opposite factions in the Vietnam War. The 1961 Checkpoint Charlie incident in Berlin almost turned into a tank battle for the city and the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis nearly triggered a nuclear war.

So in 1963, the countries signed a memorandum of understanding that established a “hotline” for direct communication between the two powers, mitigating the risk of an accidental provocation. Despite pop culture depiction of the hotline as a telephone line, messages were sent via a text-only teletype machine — much faster than relying on telegramme letters that had to travel overseas. The system was upgraded to satellite communication in 1971, fax in 1983, and finally email via a dedicated computer network in 2008.

On August 30, 1963, President John F. Kennedy became the first American with a direct line (albeit, routed through the Pentagon for encryption and transmission) to the Kremlin in Moscow. It was an instant connection, 24 hours a day, seven days a week, though both parties agreed that it was to be used only in emergency situations. 

Featured Image: A non-dial “Red Phone” on display in the Jimmy Carter Library and Museum. This telephone is actually a prop, erroneously representing the hotline between Washington and Moscow.

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This Marine’s war journal grew into an HBO blockbuster series

Eugene Sledge and several classmates intentionally flunked out of their studies in order to enlist during World War II. Sledge chose the Marine Corps infantry and was trained as a 60mm mortarman before being assigned as a replacement in the 5th Marine Regiment. Pvt. Sledge joined K Company, 3rd Battalion, 5th Marines after the Battle of Cape Gloucester in preparation for the assault on Peleliu. Sledge and the rest of the 1st Marine Division attacked Peleliu on September 15, 1944.


The fight for the island was supposed to be short but dragged on for more than two months before the island was secure. It was during the fighting on Peleliu that Sledge began keeping a journal of his experiences tucked in the pages of his bible. The fight for the island had so decimated his division that they would not be fit for action again for over six months.

The 1st Marine Division next saw action during the bloody battle for Okinawa. After 82 intense days of combat, the island was secured and the Marines began preparing for their next mission, the invasion of Japan. Fortunately, the atomic bombs forced a Japanese capitulation and Sledge and the 5th Marines instead were sent to Beijing for occupation duty. Sledge was discharged from the Marine Corps in February of 1946 at the rank of corporal.

Despite being out of the war, the experiences he had continued to plague him. He felt out of place back in Alabama, being around people who had not experienced the war. As he stated in an interview with PBS, “As I strolled the streets of Mobile, civilian life seemed so strange. People rushed around in a hurry about seemingly insignificant things. Few seemed to realise how blessed they were to be free and untouched by the horrors of war. To them, a veteran was a veteran – all were the same, whether one man had survived the deadliest combat or another had pounded a typewriter while in uniform.”

While at the Registrar a clerk reviewing his military transcripts asked him if “the Marine Corps taught you anything useful?” To which he replied “Lady, there was a killing war. The Marine Corps taught me how to kill Japs and try to survive. Now, if that don’t fit into any academic course, I’m sorry. But some of us had to do the killing — and most of my buddies got killed or wounded.”

Along with his difficulties with civilians, Eugene Sledge also found himself a changed man. Prior to the war, he had been an avid hunter but when he came back, he found the experience too much to bear. During one particular hunt, Sledge’s father found him weeping after having to kill a wounded dove, saying he could no longer bear to witness any suffering. The conversation was an important one. His father suggested he could substitute bird watching for hunting. This would be a turning point in Sledge’s transition and help guide his career.

Sledge threw himself into his studies at Alabama Polytechnic Institute (now Auburn University), as the studying seemed to help with the flashbacks. In science, he found a subject that would keep him sane and complimented his new passion for observing nature. He completed his bachelor’s degree in only three years, graduating in 1949 with a degree in Biology. He returned to Alabama Polytechnic in 1953 as a graduate student and research assistant before earning his Master’s in Biology in 1955.

Despite his rigorous study keeping many of the bad memories at bay, the war was still with him. At the urging of his wife, he returned to the journal he kept during the war and began work on his memoirs. Then from 1956 to 1960 Sledge attended the University of Florida where he received his Ph.D. in Biology. Dr. Sledge returned to Alabama and became a professor of Biology at the University of Montevallo in 1962.

Dr. Sledge continued to teach at the university until his retirement in 1990. During that time, he also continued to work on his own memoirs. His first book, With the Old Breed: at Peleliu and Okinawa, was published in 1981. Unlike most autobiographical war memoirs, Sledge’s book was written very academically and included cited sources. There is no shortage of authenticity to it, as he describes in gory detail, his experiences from the war. Combined with his academic pursuits, the writing of his book allowed Sledge to finally put the war behind him.

Eugene Sledge died in 2001 but his memory lives on. In 2002, his second book, China Marine: an Infantryman’s Life after WWII, was published. Then in 2007, it was announced that “With the Old Breed” was being used as source material for the HBO miniseries “The Pacific.” “With the Old Breed” is also on the Commandant’s Reading List.

This white-hat hacker catfished a bunch of defense information security experts

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US intelligence before World War II was basically nonexistent

U.S. intelligence before World War II was fragmented and ad hoc, comprised of numerous government and military entities all loath to share their information with each other. With the events transpiring across the globe in the 1930’s, President Roosevelt became concerned about the United States’ deficiencies in the intelligence field. Enter William Donovan.


This white-hat hacker catfished a bunch of defense information security experts

Col. William “Wild Bill” Donovan was a well-respected lawyer and veteran of the First World War, in which he earned the Medal of Honor, Distinguished Service Cross, and three Purple Hearts. Between the wars, he traveled extensively and met with many foreign dignitaries, however, his chief concern was on establishing the American equivalent of Britain’s intelligence services, MI6, and the Special Operations Executive. His extensive travel and ideas earned him the respect and friendship of President Roosevelt, and when the President established the Office of the Coordination of Information he named Donovan the director.

Donovan immediately set to work untangling the bureaucratic mess that was the American intelligence services. It was much more complicated than he anticipated. He met hostility over jurisdiction with numerous people, most notably J. Edgar Hoover of the FBI. During this time, the majority of intelligence for the Office of the Coordination of Information came from the British, as did the training for the new operatives. After the attack on Pearl Harbor, it became clear that the United States needed a greater intelligence capacity. To accomplish this, President Roosevelt issued a presidential military order on June 13, 1942 creating the Office of Strategic Services with the mission of collecting and analyzing strategic information for the Joint Chiefs of Staff and to conduct special operations not assigned to other agencies. William Donovan was reactivated in the U.S. Army at his World War I rank of Colonel and put in charge of the organization.

Now that Donovan had his intelligence agency, he needed to fill the ranks. With no prior experience to draw on, he and those he recruited would be starting essentially from scratch. However, Donovan was given just the right man for the job in one Lt. Col. Garland Williams, a successful law enforcement officer and officer in the Army Reserve. Williams took Donovan’s intent to create an American intelligence service based on the British models and made it uniquely American – though he would require British help to get started. It was decided the OSS would be responsible for intelligence and counter-intelligence, psychological warfare, and guerrilla and irregular warfare, to include sabotage and most importantly coordinating resistance movements with each area of responsibility handled by a specialized branch. Once the training areas, National Parks outside Washington, D.C., were established and trainers were in place Williams set about creating a curriculum to train the new operatives.

Williams broke down the training into three phases; preliminary, basic, and advanced. Preliminary training was what Williams called a “toughening up” phase and included PT, obstacle courses, road marches, hand-to-hand combat and weapons skills that were designed to weed out the unqualified and to help identify the particular skills of those who passed for their branch assignment within the OSS. The basic phase introduced many special topics for students such as intelligence gathering, target identification, and sabotage. But most importantly, according to Lt. Col. Williams, in these phases the students “will also be physically and mentally conditioned during these two courses for the aggressive and ruthless action which they will be called upon to perform at later dates.” A park superintendent who monitored the OSS training area referred to the training as “a stomach-turning roughhouse” and was thoroughly appalled by what he witnessed.

This white-hat hacker catfished a bunch of defense information security experts
Donovan conferring with OSS agents in China

Once the students had passed preliminary and basic operator training they moved on to the advanced training. This training involved what Lt. Col. Williams referred to as “schemes” – mock attacks on real targets in the U.S. Teams of students would be assigned missions against bridges, railroads, and plants in areas such as Baltimore and Pittsburgh in which they were instructed to infiltrate secure locations and plant fake explosives or to recover some kind of sensitive data. Most of these missions were completed successfully however a few teams were arrested by local police or the FBI.

This white-hat hacker catfished a bunch of defense information security experts
OSS classroom training.

Throughout the operators’ training, the emphasis was always on independent thinking, initiative, resourcefulness, personal courage, and building confidence. Military discipline took a back seat to the need for candidates to become individual fighters and guerrilla warriors as opposed to soldiers who needed orders to operate. Col. Donovan even stated, “I’d rather have a young lieutenant with guts enough to disobey an order than a colonel too regimented to think and act for himself.”

This white-hat hacker catfished a bunch of defense information security experts
OSS paratrooper training

Once the operatives completed training they were shipped to war zones all over the world where they conducted irregular warfare, sabotage, and direct action missions behind enemy lines in Operational Groups, a predecessor to modern Special Forces ODA’s, or in the more famous Jedburgh Teams. However, despite the support of Gen. Eisenhower, President Truman disbanded the Office of Strategic Services in October 1945 but its legacy and missions would live on.

Two years after the dissolution of the OSS, the Central Intelligence Agency was formed to take up many of its former missions and to establish their training curriculum the CIA used everything the OSS has created. A short time later the U.S. Army formed the Special Forces which took up the missions of irregular warfare and foreign internal defense. There are still visual cues that persist in the military today too such as the U.S. Special Operations Command shoulder sleeve insignia, nearly identical to the OSS patch, as well as the Fairbairn-Sykes Fighting Knife emblem on Delta Force’s shoulder sleeve insignia. Though the OSS was a fledgling intelligence service at the outset of World War II, it set the stage for the strongest clandestine services in the modern world.

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The new reveal trailer for ‘Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare’ is intense

The guys at Infinity Ward have released the reveal trailer for “Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare” and it looks amazing (and features a great version of Bowie’s “Major Tom”).


The newest game in the iconic Call of Duty series opens with a Pearl Harbor-type attack, a massive surprise that cripples the defenders. The trailer reveals some new experiences for Call of Duty players like the ability to pilot ships in space combat as well as the standard ground warfare in the series.

This white-hat hacker catfished a bunch of defense information security experts
GIF: YouTube/Call of Duty

An epic storyline plays out in the trailer and will hopefully correlate to a similarly-epic campaign mode. The video description from Call of Duty promises that the new game is a return to the franchise’s roots, “large-scale war and cinematic, immersive military storytelling.”

This white-hat hacker catfished a bunch of defense information security experts
GIF: YouTube/Call of Duty

Since the original Call of Duty focused on the combined arms warfare of World War II, it’s appropriate that it opens with a surprise attack before throwing the player into a global fight. Infinity Ward has said the game will feature few visible loading periods, so players shouldn’t be ripped out of the story too often.

The game is slated for release on Nov. 4 for Playstation 4, Xbox One, and PC.

Check out the full first trailer below:

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Marine journeys to Korean War battlefield to memorialize uncle’s ultimate sacrifice

Almost 55,000 American troops were lost during the Korean War. One Marine is on a mission to memorialize the heroic legacy of a forgotten generation of heroes. Marine Corps PFC Ruben Sanchez Adame, his uncle, was one of them.

MSgt. Samuel Castro chose to enlist in the Marine Corps in 1999, wanting to be a part of something bigger than himself, he said. A Signals Intelligence and Electromagnetic Warfare Chief, it’s a decision he remains proud of. 

This white-hat hacker catfished a bunch of defense information security experts
Castro. Photo via Linkedin.

Two years after boot camp he knocked on his mother’s door. He was holding his new baby with his wife and proudly wearing his uniform. He was unprepared for her reaction. “She broke down crying and said her brother was a Marine and that he’d died in combat during the Korean War,” Castro said. 

The emotional moment would reveal a deep family history of military service that had been kept quiet. Later, other relatives would open up about their own service after being inspired by Castro.

In 2008, he had just returned from his third combat deployment and began retracing and researching Adame’s life. Castro discovered that his uncle had served in Charlie Company, 1st Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division. “I was now stationed back home in Texas and I started to identify potential leads. I found a few names of some living Texas veterans that were with that same unit,” he explained.

Norman Callahan and Ray Broward were two of them. After receiving Callahan’s phone number, Castro said he just picked up the phone one day and called. The men embarked on a two hour conversation examining the similarities and differences of their wars. 

“I’d just come back from my third or fourth deployment and had more context of war. Not that I would ever compare my experiences deployed with what occurred during the Korean War but that was one of the key aspects of the conversation with Norm and Ray,” Castro explained. “They had a hard time understanding what war was like in Iraq and Afghanistan but then Ray said something that really stuck with me. He said ‘You fight the war you’re given’.”

Callahan had been making annual trips to Chuncheon, Gangwon Province in an effort to find the missing remains of his fallen comrades. During his final trip in 2006, he brought Adame’s graveyard dirt with him, spreading it on the old battlefield ground. He refused to let his fellow Marines be forgotten.

But the Korean War has been labeled the “Forgotten War”. 

World War II divided Korea into two parts after its liberation from Japan by the Soviet Union and the United States. The 38th parallel had Soviet Union communists occupying the northern half and Americans occupying the southern half. 

This white-hat hacker catfished a bunch of defense information security experts
Men of the 1st Marine Division capture Chinese Communists during fighting on the central Korean front. Hoengsong, March 2, 1951. Pfc. C. T. Wehner. (Marine Corps) NARA FILE #: 127-N-A6759
Pfc. C. T. Wehner. (Marine Corps)

The founding of an independent South Korea would lead to a war that would take the lives of over 5 million people. In June of 1950, the 75,000 soldiers with the North Korean Communist Army invaded South Korea in a surprise attack. America immediately came to their aid with the United Nations following suit not long thereafter.

Although the allied troops eventually pushed forward and it appeared the war was going to end, China entered the conflict without warning and joined North Korea. 140,000 Chinese soldiers would overrun the Marines of Charlie Company in 1951 at the Battle of Horseshoe Ridge in South Korea. 

Adame, Callahan and Broward were in the middle of it. 

In 2016, Castro and his family were stationed in Okinawa, Japan. During a vacation in South Korea, a friend set up a surprise visit to Chuncheon. “I had gotten the pins for the hill location years ago and we used that to actually find that battle site of Horseshoe Ridge where 1 Charlie Company had basically dug in. They were involved in a level of intensity that is hard to comprehend,” he said. 

As a fellow Marine, seeing the environment his uncle was forced to fight in first hand was what Castro called “a nightmarish scene”.

Official records eventually revealed that Adame had been sent to the rear for more ammo just as the Chinese launched an offensive with those 140,000 troops. He never made it to the rear and was never seen again. During the 14-hour battle, the unit lost 60 percent of its Marines. Adame was initially labeled MIA but later changed to KIA. His remains were never found.

This white-hat hacker catfished a bunch of defense information security experts
Adame

Callahan and Broward never forgot the war or Adame. For them, as long ago as it was, it still seemed like just yesterday, Castro shared. On that fateful phone call, both men shared stories of his uncle’s courage. 

“It had been so many years later but they had never forgotten Ruben’s name or his face and they were in tears when I was on the phone with them,” he said. “To them, they felt like something was missing because their brethren were never found…They are both gone now but they never gave up. That part more than anything really sticks with me.”

From the discovery of his uncle to the journey through the Korean War battlefield that took PFC Ruben Sanchez Adame, it’s an experience Castro remains grateful for. As America heads into Memorial Day, he was asked what he’d want readers to take away from his story. His response was direct. “No man is truly gone unless he is forgotten.”

Featured image: Korean War Memorial, USMC photo.

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New stunning documentary shows the reality of the drone war through the eyes of the operators

A new documentary, “National Bird,” exposes the secret drone war being carried out in Afghanistan, Iraq, Yemen, and elsewhere from the ground level of the strike and from the perspective of three military operators who used to pull the trigger.


“When you watch someone in those dying moments, what their reaction is, how they’re reacting and what they’re doing,” Heather Linebaugh, a former drone imagery analyst, says in the film. “It’s so primitive. It’s really raw, stripped down, death.”

Also read: Osprey crash shows how dangerous Marine aviation can be

Though unmanned systems have been used for many years to carry out surveillance, it wasn’t until after the September 11, 2001, terror attacks — on February 4, 2002 — that a drone was armed and used for targeted killing. That 2002 strike apparently killed three civilians mistaken for Osama bin Laden and his confidantes, a theme that went on to play out again and again.

This white-hat hacker catfished a bunch of defense information security experts
US Air Force photo

Armed drones have operated since in Afghanistan and many other countries in which the U.S. is not at war, including Yemen, Somalia, and Pakistan. They have been used to strike militants and terror leaders over the years — a program accelerated under the Obama administration — but it has come at a deadly cost, with thousands of innocent civilians killed, to include hundreds of children.

“I can say the drone program is wrong because I don’t know how many people I’ve killed,” Linebaugh says.

Linebaugh and two others, introduced only by their first names Daniel and Lisa, tell equally compelling stories from their time in the military’s drone program. The film gives them a chance to shine a light on what is a highly secretive program, which officials often describe as offering near-surgical precision against terrorists that may someday do harm to U.S. interests.

Instead, the three offer pointed critiques to that narrative, sharing poignant details of deaths they witnessed through their sophisticated cameras and sensors. The most disturbing thing about being involved with the drone program, Daniel said, was the lack of clarity about whom he killed and whether they were civilians.

“There’s no way of knowing,” he says.

This white-hat hacker catfished a bunch of defense information security experts
Screenshot via www.liveleak.com

Though the testimony of the three operators is compelling, the documentary’s most important moments come from a visit to Afghanistan, where the documentary showcases a family that was wrongly targeted by a strike. It was on February 21, 2010, when three vehicles carrying more than two-dozen civilians were hit by an Air Force drone crew.

“That’s when we heard the sound of a plane but we couldn’t see it,” one victim says.

Filmmaker Sonia Kennebeck mixes witness statements with a reenactment of overhead imagery and voices reading from the transcript prior to the strike. A later investigation found that the operators of the Predator drone offered “inaccurate and unprofessional” reporting of what they saw.

During the incident, the drone operators reported seeing “at least five dudes so far.” Eventually, they reported 21 “military-age males,” no females, and two possible children, which they said were approximately 12 years old.

“Twelve, 13 years old with a weapon is just as dangerous,” one drone operator says. The operators never got positive identification of the people below having weapons.

That’s because the group consisted only of innocent men, women, and children, according to the documentary. Twenty-three Afghan civilians were killed, including two children aged seven and four.

“We thought they would stop when they saw women, but they just kept bombing us,” the mother of the children says.

Gen. Stanley McChrystal, then the commander of U.S. forces in the country, apologized for the strike. Four officers involved were disciplined.

The documentary cuts through the defense of drones as a “surgical” weapon that only kills the bad guys. As many reports have made clear, the US often doesn’t know exactly who it is killing in a drone strike, instead hazarding an “imperfect guess,” according to The New York Times, which is sometimes based merely on a location or suspicious behavior.

That imperfect guess has often resulted in the death of innocent locals — or, as was the case in 2015, the death of two men, an American, and an Italian, who were being held hostage by militants.

As Daniel points out in the documentary, the presence of drones on the battlefield has only emboldened commanders, who no longer have to risk military personnel in raids and can fire a missile instead. That viewpoint only seems to be growing, as the technology gets better and drones continue to proliferate around the world.

This white-hat hacker catfished a bunch of defense information security experts
Airman 1st Class Christian Clausen | US Air Force

The drone may continue to be the “national bird” of the U.S. military for a long time, but perhaps the documentary can start a conversation around their use and whether they create more terrorists, as has been argued, than they are able to take out.

“Not everybody is a freakin’ terrorist. We need to just get out of that mindset,” says Lisa, a former Air Force technical sergeant, in the documentary. “Imagine if this was happening to us. Imagine if our children were walking outside of their door and it was a sunny day, and they were afraid because they didn’t know if today was the day that something was going to fall out of the sky and kill someone close to them. How would we feel?”

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The Navy plans to buy this new Super Hornet with a deadlier sting

The F/A-18E/F Super Hornet has been the backbone of the US Navy’s carrier air wings for just over a decade, following the retirement of the legendary F-14 Tomcat. Reliable, versatile and thoroughly adaptable, the Super Hornet is everything the Navy hoped for in a multirole fighter and more.


But its age is starting to show quickly, especially thanks to increasing deployment rates due to a need to fill in for unavailable older “legacy” Hornets being put through service life extension programs. This has resulted in more wear and tear on these big fighters than the Navy originally projected.

This white-hat hacker catfished a bunch of defense information security experts
U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Christopher Gaines

So to keep its fighter fleet relevant and as sharp as ever, the Navy has finally decided to give the go-ahead on picking up brand new Super Hornets from Boeing’s St. Louis, MO plant, while simultaneously upgrading older Super Hornets currently serving. However, these new fighters will come with a few new features that their predecessors don’t have, making them even more potent than ever before in the hands of the Navy’s best and brightest.

While Boeing previously pushed the Navy to consider buying a smaller amount of F-35C Lightning II stealth strike fighters in favor of more F/A-18E/Fs, the aviation manufacturer’s new plan is to develop a Super Hornet that’s capable of seamlessly integrating with the F-35C, making the combination extremely deadly and a huge asset in the hands of any Navy task force commander while underway.

Though the Super Hornet was originally designed in the 1990s to be able to fly against comparable 4th generation fighters, this new update, known as the Advanced Super Hornet or the Block III upgrade, will keep this aircraft relevant against even modern foreign 5th generation fighters today.

This white-hat hacker catfished a bunch of defense information security experts

Boeing has hinted at the Block III upgrade for the past few years, pitching it constantly with mixed results. Earlier this week, Navy brass confirmed that a plan to buy 80 more Super Hornets was in the works, fleshed out over the next five years.

These new fighters will likely be the first to carry the Block III upgrade, while older Super Hornets will enter overhaul depots between 2019 and 2022, returning to the fleet upon completion of their updating.

Among the most drastic changes these new Super Hornets will come with, as compared to the ones the Navy currently flies, is a completely revamped cockpit, similar to the one used in the F-35. Instead of smaller screens, a jumble of buttons, switches and instrument clusters, Advanced Super Hornets will have a “large-area display” which pulls up every bit of critical information each pilot needs to successfully operate the aircraft onto one big screen, reducing workload and strain.

Additionally, a new networking system will allow Advanced Super Hornets to communicate data more efficiently with Lightning IIs, EA-18 Growler electronic attack jets, and E-2D Advanced Hawkeye airborne early warning aircraft.

This white-hat hacker catfished a bunch of defense information security experts
It’s likely that the Advanced Super Hornet will include some kind of stealth coating, painted on the surfaces of the aircraft to absorb or deflect radar waves. (Photo from Boeing)

Block III will also include new infrared search and track (IRST) sensors that’ll allow Super Hornets to detect and engage low-observable threats from longer distances. Given that stealth has become an important factor in modern fighter design, it’s likely that the Block III update will also include some kind of stealth coating, painted on the surfaces of the aircraft to absorb or deflect radar waves. The US Air Force and Marine Corps already use similar coatings on F-22 Raptors, F-35s, and select groups of F-16 Fighting Falcons.

The upgrade will also give Super Hornets the ability to fly with Conformal Fuel  Tanks (CFT) for the very first time, providing an extension in operating range without sacrificing space on weapons pylons beneath the aircraft’s wings. With more flexibility in terms of weapons carriage, the Navy hopes that Super Hornets will not only be able to fly air superiority missions, but will also function as a flying arsenal for F-35s, which (through data links) could launch and deploy munitions from F/A-18E/Fs while on mission.

The program cost for upgrading currently-active Super Hornets will be around $265.9 million, between 2018 and 2022, while the cost of the 80-strong order for new Super Hornets will come to around $7.1 billion. This massive upgrade also signals the Navy’s interest in investing more into assets it currently fields over developing brand new next-generation fighters as broader replacements, generally to save costs while still maintaining the ability to deal with a variety of potential threats America’s enemies pose today.

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Beyond the F-35: Air Force and Navy already working on 6th generation fighter

Fighter jets in 20-years may likely contain the next-generation of stealth technology, electronic warfare, sophisticated computer processing and algorithms, increased autonomy, hypersonic weapons and so-called “smart-skins” where sensors are built into the side of the aircraft itself.


Some of these characteristics may have been on display earlier this year when Northrop Grumman’s SuperBowl AD revealed a flashy first look at its rendering of a new 6th-generation fighter jet. Northrop is one of a number of major defense industry manufacturers who will bid for a contract to build the new plane – when the time is right.

Also read: Here’s what the people who fly and fix the F-35 have to say about history’s most expensive weapons system

The new aircraft, engineered to succeed the 5th-generation F-35 Joint Strike Fighter and explode onto the scene by the mid 2030s, is now in the earliest stages of conceptual development with the Air Force and Navy. The two services are now working together on early conceptual discussions about the types of technologies and capabilities the aircraft will contain. While the Air Force has not yet identified a platform for the new aircraft.

This white-hat hacker catfished a bunch of defense information security experts
Lockheed Martin

The Navy’s new aircraft will, at least in part, replace the existing inventory of F/A-18 Super Hornets which will start to retire by 2035, Navy officials said.

The Navy vision for a future carrier air wing in 2040 and beyond is comprised of the carrier-launched variant of the Joint Strike Fighter, the F-35C, and legacy aircraft such as the EA-18G Growler electronic jamming aircraft.

Also, around this time is when Navy planners envision its 6th generation aircraft to be ready, an aircraft which will likely be engineered for both manned and unmanned missions.

Technologies are rapidly advancing in coatings, electromagnetic spectrum issues, maneuvering, superiority in sensing the battlespace, communications and data links, Navy leaders have said.

This white-hat hacker catfished a bunch of defense information security experts
An F-35B Lightning II takes off from the flight deck of the amphibious assault ship USS Wasp on May 25, 2015. | US Navy Photo

Navy officials also add that the Navy is likely to develop new carrier-launched unmanned air vehicles in coming years as well.

Analysts have speculated that as 6th generation developers seek to engineer a sixth-generation aircraft, they will likely explore a range of next-generation technologies such as maximum sensor connectivity, super cruise ability and an aircraft with electronically configured “smart skins.”

Maximum connectivity would mean massively increased communications and sensor technology such as having an ability to achieve real-time connectivity with satellites, other aircraft and anything that could provide relevant battlefieldinformation.Thenew aircraft might also seek to develop the ability to fire hypersonic weapons, however such a development would hinge upon successful progress with yet-to-be-proven technologies such as scramjets traveling at hypersonic speeds. Some tests of early renderings of this technology have been tested successfully and yet other attempts have failed.

Super cruise technology would enable the new fighter jet to cruise at supersonic speeds without needing afterburner, analysts have explained.

Smart aircraft skins would involve dispersing certain technologies or sensors across the fuselage and further integrating them into the aircraft itself, using next-generation computer algorithms to organize and display information for the pilot.

Smart skins with distributed electronics means that instead of having systems mounted on the aircraft, you would have apertures integrated on the skin of the aircraft, analysts have said.

This could reduce drag, increase speed and maneuverability while increasing the technological ability of the sensors.

It is also possible that the new 6th-generation fighter could use advanced, futuristic stealth technology able to enable newer, more capable air defenses. The air defenses of potential adversaries are increasingly using faster computing processing power and are better networked together, more digital, able to detect a wider range of frequencies and able to detect stealthy aircraft at farther distances.

The new 6th-generation fighter will also likely fire lasers and have the ability to launch offensive electronic attacks.

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24 photos that show US Navy flight ops up close and personal

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(Photo: U.S. Navy)


America’s aircraft carriers are the heart of the US Navy and serve as American territory floating around the world, allowing the US to project massive air and sea military might.

During flight operations, an aircraft carrier’s deck is an extremely dangerous place with expensive fighter jets and helicopters landing and taking off on a short runway. However, sailors and airmen mitigate risks by fine tuning the chaos with coordination and precision.

Here are 27 pictures to prove there is really nothing quite like America’s aircraft carriers.

Tiger cruise participants commemorate their voyage with a spell-out on the flight deck on the USS Carl Vinson.

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U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class James R. Evans

An MV-22 Osprey tiltrotor aircraft assigned to Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron takes off from the flight deck of the amphibious assault ship USS Bonhomme Richard.

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U.S. Navy Photo

An aircraft director guides an F/A-18C Hornet onto a catapult aboard the aircraft carrier USS Harry S. Truman.

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U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Kilho Park

An aircraft prepares to launch from the aircraft carrier USS Nimitz.

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U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Ryan J. Mayes

An F/A-18F Super Hornet from the Black Aces of Strike Fighter Squadron 41 lands aboard the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS John C. Stennis.

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U.S. Navy Photo

Sailors stow an aircraft barricade after flight deck drills aboard the aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan.

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U.S. Navy Photo

Sailors conduct a special patrol insertion/extraction exercise aboard the aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan.

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U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Paolo Bayas

Ship executive officer addresses Sailors on the flight deck during an all-hands call on the aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson.

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U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Zachary Bell

USS Bonhomme Richard conducts flight operations.

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U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Stacy M. Atkins Ricks

A pilot confirms the weight of his jet prior to launch on the flight deck of the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS John C. Stennis.

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U.S. Navy photo

Airman position model aircraft on a planning board in the flight deck control center aboard the aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln.

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U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Sarah Murphy

Chief Aviation Boatswain’s Mate signals a C-2A Greyhound on the flight deck of the aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan.

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U.S. Navy photo

USS Theodore Roosevelt conducts vertical replenishment.

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U.S. Navy photo by Naval Air Crewman (Helicopter) 2nd Class Christopher Harris

USS Essex sailors scrub the flight deck.

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U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Adam M. Bennett

A landing craft air cushion enters the well deck of USS Kearsarge in Gulf of Aden.

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U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Corbin J. Shea

USS Essex conducts deck landing qualifications.

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U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Bradley J. Gee

USS John C. Stennis conducts helicopter operations.

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U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Apprentice Ignacio D. Perez

A Super Hornet launches from the deck of USS Enterprise.

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U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Scott Pittman

Sailor signals for sailors to set up the aircraft barricade during a drill aboard USS George Washington.

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U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Jacob D. Moore

MH-60S Sea Hawk helicopter lands aboard USS Essex.

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U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Adam M. Bennett

An AV-8B Harrier launches from USS Makin Island.

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U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Kory Alsberry

Sailors conduct a chock-and-chain evolution with an SH-60 Sea Hawk aboard USS Wasp.

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U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Rawad Madanat

An airman directs an MH-60S Sea Hawk helicopter on the flight deck of aircraft carrier USS John C. Stennis.

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U.S. Navy Photo

Sailors prepare an F/A-18E Super Hornet on the USS Ronald Reagan.

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U.S. Navy photo

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US Navy official: Russia’s submarine activities are at their highest since the Cold War

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Wiki Commons


The US Commander of Naval Forces in Europe has warned CNN in an interview that Russian submarine activity has reached levels not seen since the Cold War.

Speaking of the spread of submarines, their aggression, buildup, and capabilities, Admiral Mark Ferguson warned that the situation could pose serious problems for NATO in the coming years.

“The submarines that we’re seeing are much more stealthy,” Ferguson told CNN. “We’re seeing (the Russians) have more advanced weapons systems, missile systems that can attack land at long ranges, and we also see their operating proficiency is getting better as they range farther from home waters.”

Ferguson’s concerns echo those raised by NATO Vice Admiral Clive Johnstone, who told IHS Jane’s 360 in February that Russian increase has once again made the North Atlantic a primary area “of concern” to the military alliance.

Additionally, the admiral warned that such levels of Russian activity are nearly unprecedented.

There is now more reported “activity from Russian submarines than we’ve seen since the days of the Cold War,” Johnstone told Jane’s.

And it is not just the number of Russian submarines in a previously uncontested area that has NATO concerned. Although Russia’s navy suffered strongly after the fall of the USSR, Moscow’s submarine forces continued to stay effective.

Playing to its strengths, the Kremlin has successfully continued to focus on its submarine forces through both an effort to modernize and professionalize that segment of the Navy.

US Navy Rear Adm. Dave Johnson said, during a 2014 symposium at the Naval Submarine League, that he was so impressed by the new Russian nuclear guided missile submarine Severodvinsk that he had a model of the submarine built from unclassified data.

“The rest of the world’s undersea capability never stands still,” Johnson said.

Johnstone echoed these comments from Johnson to Jane’s. Russia, in his view, has made “technology leaps that [are] remarkable, and credit to them.”

And retired Admiral James Stavridis, a former NATO supreme allied commander, told CNN that “Russian subs pose an existential threat to U.S. carrier groups,” as the US can no longer maintain “100% awareness of Russian sub activity.”

This sudden Russian expansion is additionally deeply troubling to NATO due to a lack of knowledge about what Moscow’s potential plans may be. This, coupled with Russia’s perceived willingness to interfere in Ukraine and other neighboring states, has unnerved NATO members.

“Just outside NATO’s territory we face major challenges that could have direct consequences for Norwegian and allied security,” Norwegian Defense Minister Ine Eriksen Soreide writes. Norway has increased military spending by 9.4% for 2016.

The US has also slated an increase in funds for submarines. Over the next five years, the Pentagon is hoping to have $13 billion for submarine research, development, and procurement.

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Who would win a dogfight between a Flogger and a Phantom?

Sure, we all know about the F-16 Falcon, the F-15 Eagle, the Su-27 Flanker, the MiG-29 Fulcrum… all those modern planes.


But in the 1970s and the early 1980s, the mainstays of the tactical air forces on both sides of the Iron Curtain were the Phantom in the west and the Flogger in the east.

The F-4 Phantom was arguably a “Joint Strike Fighter” before JSFs were cool. The United States Air Force, United States Navy, United States Marine Corps, Royal Air Force, Fleet Air Arm, West German Air Force, and numerous other countries bought the F-4.

According to Globalsecurity.org, the F-4 could carry four AIM-7 Sparrows, four AIM-9 Sidewinders, and the F-4E had an internal cannon. The plane could carry over 12,000 pounds of ordnance.

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Photo: Wikimedia

Like the F-4, the MiG-23 was widely exported — and not just to Warsaw Pact militaries. It was also sold to Soviet allies across the world — from Cuba to North Korea. It could carry two AA-7 radar-guided missiles, four AA-8 infra-red guided missiles, and had a twin 23mm cannon.

Globalsecurity.org notes that the Flogger can carry up to 4,400 pounds of ordnance (other sources credit the Flogger with up to 6,600 pounds of ordnance).

Both planes have seen a lot of combat over their careers. That said, the MiG-23’s record has been a bit more spotty.

According to the Air Combat Information Group, at least 33 MiG-23s of the Syrian Air Force were shot down by the Israeli Air Force since the end of 1973. Of that total, 25 took place in the five-day air battle known as the Bekaa Valley Turkey Shoot. The total number of confirmed kills for the MiG-23s in service with the Syrian Air Force against the Israelis in that time period is five.

ACIG tallied six air-to-air kills by Israeli F-4s in that same timeframe (Joe Baugher noted 116 total air-to-air kills by the Israelis in the Phantom), with four confirmed air-to-air losses to the Syrians. That said, it should be noted that by the late 1970s, the F-4 had been shifted to ground-attack missions, as Israel had acquired F-15s and F-16s.

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An air-to-air right side view of a Soviet MiG-23 Flogger-G aircraft with an AA-7 Apex air-to-air missile attached to the outer wing pylon and an AA-8 Aphid air-to-air missile on the inner wing pylon. (From Soviet Military Power 1985)

There is one other measure to judge the relative merits of the F-4 versus the MiG-23. The F-4 beats the MiG-23 in versatility. The MiG-23 primarily specialized in air-to-air combat. They had to create another version — the MiG-23BN and later the MiG-27 — to handle ground-attack missions.

In sharp contrast to the specialization of various Flogger designs, the F-4 handled air-to-air and ground-attack missions – often on the same sortie. To give one example, acepilots.com notes that before  Randy “Duke” Cunningham engaged in the aerial action that resulted in three kills on May 10, 1972 – and for which he was awarded the Navy Cross – he dropped six Rockeye cluster bombs on warehouses near the Hai Dong rail yards.

In short, if the Cold War had turned hot during the 1970s, the F-4 Phantom would have probably proven itself to be the better airplane than the MiG-23 Flogger. If anything shows, it is the fact that hundreds of Phantoms still flew in front-line service in the early 21st Century.

Even though the F-4 had retired in 1996, it still flew unmanned missions until this month.

The MiG-23 just can’t match the Phantom.

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ISIS using Justin Bieber hashtags to recruit tweens

Like any other desperate marketing campaign, ISIS terrorists are looking to go viral using #JustinBieber in their tweets. The reason is simple enough: Bieber has more Twitter followers than anyone else in the world.


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While the rest of us would struggle to figure out which of these two we hate more.

Bieber’s fans, known as “Beliebers,” skew young, between 10-15 years old, making them a prime target for the terror organization in a way that would earn them a visit from Chris Hansen, host of “To Catch a Predator.”

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So, instead of seeing a music video featuring the young singer, when readers click the link they get a fat man going off about how terrible the West is (while wearing U.S. Marine Corps uniforms, an irony that seems lost on him).

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ISIS currently is tweeting up to 90,000 times a day for various accounts, many times targeting disaffected youth from the West and worldwide, urging them to travel to Syria to become fighters and brides.

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