Monday, October 29, 2012

Iran naval task force 'docks in Sudan after mystery explosion

An Iranian naval task force has docked in Sudan, carrying with it a "message of peace and security to neighbouring countries", Iranian state media report.

The vessels, which include a corvette and freighter, set sail from Iran last month, the Irna news agency said.

Their arrival comes six days after explosions destroyed an arms factory in the Sudanese capital, Khartoum.

Sudan has complained to the UN that Israel bombed the factory, which is believed to have been operated by Iran.

Israel has neither confirmed nor denied responsibility for the incident.Anti-piracy patrol

According to Iranian state media, the naval task force which docked in Sudan on Monday morning includes the Shahid Naqdi, a corvette-class vessel, and the Kharg, a supply vessel that can carry three helicopters.

The Iranian navy was quoted as saying the visit was aimed at "conveying the message of peace and friendship to the neighbouring countries and ensuring security for seafaring and shipping lanes against marine terrorism and piracy".

The commanders of the Iranian flotilla were said to have met Sudanese navy commanders during the docking ceremony.

The location of the port was not given by Irna, but the semi-official Fars news agency said the task force had docked in Port Sudan.

The vessels reportedly left the southern Iranian port of Bandar Abbas for international waters in September.

Iranian vessels have been part of an international flotilla of warships patrolling the Gulf of Aden, near the entrance to the Red Sea, since 2008, when Somali pirates hijacked an Iranian-chartered cargo ship, MV Delight, off the coast of Yemen.'Impact craters'

Iran made no connection between the task force's arrival and the explosions at the al-Yarmouk military depot and ammunition plant, which left two people dead.

However, unconfirmed reports over the weekend suggested the facility was being used by Iran's Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC) to produce weapons for the Palestinian Islamist movement, Hamas.

On Saturday, the Satellite Sentinel Project said satellite images showed six large craters, about 16m (52ft) across and "consistent with impact craters created by air-delivered munitions, centred in a location where, until recently some 40 shipping containers had been stacked".

"A 12 October image shows the storage containers stacked next to a 60m-long shed," it added. "While we cannot confirm the containers remained on the site on 24 October, analysis of the imagery is consistent with the presence of highly volatile cargo in the epicentre of the explosions."

Reports suggest that shortly after midnight on Wednesday, four Israeli warplanes attacked the factory with two one-tonne bombs.

They were supported by helicopters carrying commandos to rescue any of the air crew in case they were shot down, the reports added. Another aircraft jammed Sudanese radar and air-defence systems, as well as disrupting local communications.

They reportedly took off from the Negev desert and re-fuelled in flight.

It is alleged that Israel's Mossad intelligence agency found documents relating to Iranian and Sudanese weapons manufacture on a senior Hamas official it is accused of assassinating in Dubai in 2010.

BBC Africa analyst Martin Plaut says Israel will not confirm any of the allegations officially, but it has carried out a series of raids inside Sudan down the years.

However, the Sudanese government said in May that one person had been killed after a car exploded in Port Sudan. That explosion resembled one last year which left two people dead and was blamed on an Israeli missile strike, it added.

HackRf software radio could be a tool or a security headache

FORBES: Since the days of Alan Turing, the promise of a digital computer has been that of a universal machine, one that can be a word processor one minute and a robot brain the next. So why are radios, a technology even older than computers, still designed stubbornly to do one thing–like 3G, Wifi, FM, or GPS–for their entire lives?

In fact, the era of the single-purpose radio is over, says Michael Ossmann, the founder of an Evergreen, Colorado company called Great Scott Gadgets. And he believes he’s built the one cheap, hacker-friendly radio to rule them all.

At the ToorCon hacker conference in San Diego Saturday, Ossmann and his research partner Jared Boone plan to unveil a beta version of the  HackRF Jawbreaker, the latest model of the wireless Swiss-army knife tools known as “software-defined radios.” Like any software-defined radio, the HackRF can shift between different frequencies as easily as a computer switches between applications–It can both read and transmit signals from 100 megaherz to 6 gigaherz, including frequencies as low as the range used by FM radio up to the gigaherz frequencies used by Wifi or experimental wireless protocols for cars communicating in traffic. In between those bookends lies everything from police radio to cellular signals from AT&T and Verizon to garage door openers–all signals that HackRF can instantaneously intercept or reproduce. 
And at Ossmann’s target price of $300, the versatile, open-source devices would cost less than half as much as currently existing software-defined radios with the same capabilities.
“Pretty much any wireless device that you can think of would be in the frequency range covered by HackRF,” says Ossmann.”Just from observing [a signal] over the air, you can reverse engineer it completely to figure out the information transmitted over the network, and potentially inject your own transmissions onto that network. All of that can be done with one HackRF device and a laptop.”

With HackRF in the hands of hackers or security researchers, in other words, no wireless signal would remain secure just by virtue of using a unique, unfamiliar frequency. Ossmann says that tools like HackRF mean wireless communications will need to evolve beyond the “security through obscurity” model of protecting communications that has long been considered outmoded in the wired computing world.
In a presentation at the Black Hat and Defcon security conference for instance, French security researcher Andre Costin presented vulnerabilities in the next-generation air traffic control system known as ADS-B that he said would allow a hacker with a software-defined radio to track and even spoof planes in the sky, potentially creating dangerous distractions for pilots. The more accessible software-defined radios become, he warned, the more that threat materializes.
But Costin argued that meant ADS-B needs more security–not that software-defined radios themselves are dangerous. “Software-defined radios are a good thing and an important tool for research,” he told me. “A knife is a good thing in the kitchen but can be abused to do bad things. SDRs are the same.”
The Pentagon, at least, seems to think software-defined radios are a promising tool. To fund the beta testing phase of HackRF, the Department of Defense research arm known as the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) pitched in $200,000 last February as part of its Cyber Fast Track program.
HackRF is far from the only attempt to create an affordable software-defined radio. A  device called the USRP has been available for a few years from the company Ettus Research, though it ranges in price from $800 to $2000 depending on its capabilities. Hackers have also created far cheaper models of software defined radio adapted from TV tuners that cost less than $50. But those bootleg versions have a more limited frequency range and can only receive signals, not transmit them.  ”HackRF fits right in the middle,” says Tom Rondeau, who manages the open-source radio software project GNU Radio. “There hasn’t been a way to transmit and receive at such a low cost, and that’s a big deal.”
Before founding Great Scott Gadgets, Ossmann honed his wireless expertise as a security researcher at the Department of Commerce’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration Lab in Boulder, Colorado, a job he described as being “the one security guy in a lab full of radio engineers.” But he says HackRF’s low cost is also largely the result of Moore’s Law: cheaper integrated circuits available only in the last few years have made the intensive computing needs software-defined radios far more accessible.
Ossmann isn’t shy about admitting the ways HackRF’s capabilities and cost could disrupt current security models for wireless communications. Better to put cheap software-defined radios in the hands of penetration testers who can demonstrate the insecurity of those communications than to reserve the technology only for better-funded attackers who would exploit the same wireless communications in secret.
But Ossmann also hopes it will be adopted by a wide spectrum of hackers and researchers who will use it for experimentation and creative purposes even he can’t predict. “If someone does something cool with HackRF and I say ‘Wow, I’ve never thought of that,’” he says, “That’s when I’ll know the project is a success.”


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