Feeds

Windows for Warships nears frontline service

The real blue screen of death

Boost IT visibility and business value

One might say at this point "why on earth doesn't the navy just use radar aircraft, 30,000 feet up? Then they could detect sea-skimmers hundreds of miles out, and fighters could nail them easily from behind. They could probably spot the planes or ships bringing the pesky things, and take them out from above before the shipkillers were even launched. Why would you ever spend £6bn trying to shoot these things down in the most difficult imaginable way, at the very last possible moment?"

To which the honest answer might be "we in the Royal Navy find that when we buy planes nobody gets a promotion out of it and the kit may get taken over by the RAF. If we buy a ship, however, someone gets to be captain and the slug-balancers leave us alone. Anyway, it's our £6bn, we'll do what we like with it. What do you mean you're a UK taxpayer and it's actually your money? That's crazy talk".

The logical consequence of all this is that whenever a sea-skimmer threat is deemed to be present – and if there isn't any such threat, why are we there in a Type 45 destroyer? – the weapon lockout keys will have to be turned and left turned until the threat has gone away.

As a matter of routine, then, a Windows computer in a destroyer will be enabled to launch weapons autonomously, perhaps for days at a time. Quite a lot of weapons, actually: the sea-skimmers can be expected to come in groups, so the destroyer's computer must be allowed to ripple off a fair number of Asters without asking. It can control at least 10 simultaneously.

Even without considering malware or other Windows-related issues, combat-ready air defence ships always present a severe risk of terrible, deadly accidents because there is seldom any chance to positively identify targets. The US Navy's existing Aegis ships have already demonstrated this.

It gets worse. This Windows box, unlike the one in the Trident sub, is by necessity heavily networked. A destroyer command system has to constantly communicate with other ships, aircraft, satellites, various organisations in the UK – lots of different computers. Naval surface task groups used crude automated data links before the internet was ever heard of, and nowadays the bandwidth is substantial and varied. A Type 45 will be plugged into many different networks. There will be NATO or other foreign units on some of these nets, which is to say that the authentication protocols and probably codes too will be available to anyone who wants them. Other pipes will connect, perhaps at one or two removes, to the wild and woolly internet itself.

Hacking Destroyers

It still won't be easy to hack a destroyer, but it will be distinctly possible. If you can't do it over a network, physically infiltrating a surface warship is a trivial task compared to getting aboard a Trident sub. Surface vessels have dozens of upper-deck doors and hatches, compared to a submarine's handful. Destroyers routinely tie up at berths without shoreside security, guarded by

Application security programs and practises

More from The Register

next story
HIDDEN packet sniffer spy tech in MILLIONS of iPhones, iPads – expert
Don't panic though – Apple's backdoor is not wide open to all, guru tells us
Captain Kirk sets phaser to SLAUGHTER after trying new Facebook app
William Shatner less-than-impressed by Zuck's celebrity-only app
Do YOU work at Microsoft? Um. Are you SURE about that?
Nokia and marketing types first to get the bullet, says report
Microsoft takes on Chromebook with low-cost Windows laptops
Redmond's chief salesman: We're taking 'hard' decisions
Cheer up, Nokia fans. It can start making mobes again in 18 months
The real winner of the Nokia sale is *drumroll* ... Nokia
EU dons gloves, pokes Google's deals with Android mobe makers
El Reg cops a squint at investigatory letters
Chrome browser has been DRAINING PC batteries for YEARS
Google is only now fixing ancient, energy-sapping bug
prev story

Whitepapers

Seven Steps to Software Security
Seven practical steps you can begin to take today to secure your applications and prevent the damages a successful cyber-attack can cause.
Consolidation: The Foundation for IT Business Transformation
In this whitepaper learn how effective consolidation of IT and business resources can enable multiple, meaningful business benefits.
Designing a Defense for Mobile Applications
Learn about the various considerations for defending mobile applications - from the application architecture itself to the myriad testing technologies.
Build a business case: developing custom apps
Learn how to maximize the value of custom applications by accelerating and simplifying their development.
Consolidation: the foundation for IT and business transformation
In this whitepaper learn how effective consolidation of IT and business resources can enable multiple, meaningful business benefits.