Friday, July 27, 2012

WP: Iran's navy posing increasing threat to US warships

Iran is rapidly gaining new capabilities to strike at U.S. warships in the Persian Gulf, amassing an arsenal of sophisticated anti-ship missiles while expanding its fleet of fast-attack boats and submarines, U.S. and Middle Eastern analysts say.
The new systems, many of them developed with foreign assistance, are giving Iran’s commanders new confidence that they could quickly damage or destroy U.S. ships if hostilities erupt, the officials say.
Although U.S. Navy officials are convinced that they would prevail in a fight, Iran’s advances have fueled concerns about U.S. vulnerabilities during the opening hours of a conflict in the gulf.
Increasingly accurate short-range missiles — combined with Iran’s use of “swarm” tactics involving hundreds of heavily armed patrol boats — could strain the defensive capabilities of even the most modern U.S. ships, current and former military analysts say.
In recent weeks, as nuclear talks with world powers have faltered and tensions have risen, Iran has repeated threats to shut down shipping in the oil-rich gulf region. Its leaders also have warned of massive retaliation for any attacks on its nuclear facilities, which the United States believes are civilian covers for an Iranian drive to acquire a nuclear-weapons capability.
Last week, Iran’s Foreign Ministry declared that the presence of U.S. warships in the gulf constituted a “real threat” to the region’s security.
Pentagon officials have responded by sending more ships, urged on by Congress as well as U.S. allies in the region. This month, the Navy announced that it would deploy the aircraft carrier USS John C. Stennis to the Middle East four months ahead of schedule. The shift will keep two carriers in the gulf region.
The United States also has announced new military exercises in the region, including a mine-sweeping drill in the gulf, and has moved to add new radar stations and land-based missile-defense batteries in Qatar.
Assessing the risks
The likelihood that Iran would risk an all-out attack on a vastly superior U.S. fleet is judged to be small. But Iranian leaders could decide to launch a limited strike if Israel or the United States bombed the country’s nuclear facilities. Analysts also cautioned that a conflict could be sparked by an Iranian attempt to close the Strait of Hormuz — the narrow passage through which about 20 percent of the world’s oil passes from the Persian Gulf into open seas — in retaliation for international economic sanctions.
In either scenario, Iran’s ability to inflict significant damage is substantially greater than it was a decade ago. A Pentagon study in April warned that Iran had made gains in the “lethality and effectiveness” of its arsenal. The Pentagon declined to comment for this article.

VOR: al Qaeda threatens attack in heart of America.

Voice Of Russia: An al-Qaeda leader in Iraq has threatened to carry out an attack in the heart of the US. An audio recording from Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi talks about a new attack on US soil.

This latest terror threat did not specify where or when such a plot might take place. New York, which officials say, has faced more than a dozen unsuccessful terror plots since 9/11 appears not to be a target. 

ATC upgrade is hackable scientist says

Air traffic control technology is getting a major upgrade in the United States that is scheduled to be completed in 2014, but the new systems are susceptible to potentially dangerous manipulation, according to a security researcher.
The actual flaws might seem mild compared to everyone's worst fears and common Hollywood plot lines. Planes cannot be forced from the sky or dangerously redirected. But the researcher says the system can be tricked into seeing aircraft that are not actually there. Messages sent using the system are not encrypted or authenticated, meaning anyone with the basic technology and know-how could identify a plane and see its location.
Computer scientist Andrei Costin, a Ph.D. student at Eurecom, gave a talk on the weaknesses of the new air traffic system at the Black Hat security conference in Las Vegas on Wednesday. He did not mention any known hacks of the system, but did demonstrate the potential negative scenarios.
Old radar systems are being replaced with a new technology called Automatic Dependent Surveillance - Broadcast system, or ADS-B. The traditional radars work by sending a signal that triggers an aircraft's responder to send back its position. The new system uses the global satellite navigation system to continuously broadcast the locations of planes. The information is sent to other aircraft and ground stations; the ground station sends the location to air traffic controllers.
The new system will open up this flight information to a new player: the general public.
"There are various applications which you can go to and basically see, online, in real time, all the airplanes which broadcast their information," said Costin.
According to Costin, the chance of these security holes being exploited for terrorism is unlikely, but he says they still have the potential to be used by pranksters, paparazzi and military intelligence organizations interested in tracking private aircraft or confusing air traffic control systems on the ground. Intercepting the messages, jamming the system or attacking it by adding false information does not require advanced technology; the necessary software-defined radio retails for under $800.
One of the technology's makers downplayed the threat.
"We are quite familiar with the theory that ADS-B could be 'spoofed,' or barrage jammed by false targets. There's little new here. In fact, just about any radio frequency device can be interfered with somewhat," said Skip Nelson, the president of ADS-B Technologies, which is one of many companies making these components. "I obviously can't comment on countermeasures, but you should know that this issue has been thoroughly investigated and international aviation does have a plan."
In a statement, the Federal Aviation Administration said it already has a process in place for addressing potential threats to the system, and it does conduct ongoing assessments of vulnerabilities: "An FAA ADS-B security action plan identified and mitigated risks and monitors the progress of corrective action. These risks are security sensitive and are not publicly available."
The FAA has sunk millions of dollars into the system. The benefits of the ADS-B are that it will show more precise locations of aircraft and pilots will have access to more information about surrounding aircraft while in the air. The FAA also says it is more environmentally friendly by making flight routes more direct and saving on fuel.
Given the large time and financial investment, the FAA is not going to abandon the new technology. However, it isn't throwing out the old system completely, just in case.
"The FAA plans to maintain about half of the current network of secondary radars as a backup to ADS-B in the unlikely event it is needed," the FAA said in its statement.


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