Feeds

Pentagon: Our new robot army will be controlled by malware

Open-source hax0r IP-deathware apocalypse imminent

Protecting against web application threats using SSL

A US defence department advisory board has warned of the danger that American war robots scheduled for delivery within a decade might be riddled with malicious code. The kill machines will use software largely written overseas, and it is feared that sinister forces might meddle with it in production, thus gaining control of the future mechanoid military.

The most eye-catching of the equipment mentioned is the lineup of the US Army's Future Combat Systems (FCS) programme. FCS was originally supposed to include a wide range of deadly unmanned systems, including a small, possibly rocket-firing flying Dalek, a heavily armed autonomous helicopter gunship, and a robot tank packing guided missiles and cannon. There would also be intelligent sensor minefields, droid-mule transport systems and loads of other stuff; and all of it is supposed to be linked together by a data network.

Some of this has been scratched from the plans of late to save money - fans of Keith Laumer's Bolo novels will be sorry to hear that the robotanks have gone - but FCS remains a big deal, and parts of it are meant to arrive within a few years.

"On the network the strong become stronger," runs the US Army slogan. But now the US Defence Science Board, in a report being analysed by the military press, have started to worry about that network.

"The System of Systems Common Operating Environment (SOSCOE) and the Integrated Computer System/Operating System (ICS/OS) rely predominantly on [Commercial Off The Shelf - COTS] and Open Source software," say the gov advisors.

"The ICS/OS is almost 99 per cent COTS/OS," they add. "The SOSCOE, essentially the 'middleware'... is almost 80 per cent COTS/OS."

Apparently the FCS programme office has admitted that there is a "low to moderate risk that malicious code could be inserted... and exploited."

It seems there is also an "irresistible tendency to replace relatively secure special-purpose communications... with the general purpose Internet Protocol (IP) stack."

If that doesn't boil down to a teenager with a laptop seizing control of robot helicopter gunships, we don't know what does. We'll say that again: ROBOT GUNSHIP HAX0R ARMY MENACE 2 SOCIETY. Aiee! Run! (It won't be any use, but run anyway.)

The soldiery have come up with some cunning plans to deal with this problem, including that of using undercover software buyers so that the vendors wouldn't know they were selling to the US military. There was also a suggestion that "the profit motive will assure clean code in shrink-wrapped consumer software". (They really did say that, apparently.)

The Science Board guys said they were "skeptical" of these thoughts, and concluded that "malicious code is a key concern of the FCS program".

Read the full report in all its hefty pdf glory here.

Still, things might be OK. Apparently the incredibly expensive new F-22 Raptor stealth superjet is pretty secure (it "appears to be at the high end... for secure software development"). So the Raptor finally has a clear and well-defined purpose: saving the taxpayers from the hacker robot army. ®

Reducing the cost and complexity of web vulnerability management

More from The Register

next story
Early result from Scots indyref vote? NAW, Jimmy - it's a SCAM
Anyone claiming to know before tomorrow is telling porkies
TOR users become FBI's No.1 hacking target after legal power grab
Be afeared, me hearties, these scoundrels be spying our signals
Jihadi terrorists DIDN'T encrypt their comms 'cos of Snowden leaks
Intel bods' analysis concludes 'no significant change' after whistle was blown
Home Depot: 56 million bank cards pwned by malware in our tills
That's about 50 per cent bigger than the Target tills mega-hack
Hackers pop Brazil newspaper to root home routers
Step One: try default passwords. Step Two: Repeat Step One until success
NORKS ban Wi-Fi and satellite internet at embassies
Crackdown on tardy diplomatic sysadmins providing accidental unfiltered internet access
UK.gov lobs another fistful of change at SME infosec nightmares
Senior Lib Dem in 'trying to be relevant' shocker. It's only taxpayers' money, after all
Critical Adobe Reader and Acrobat patches FINALLY make it out
Eight vulns healed, including XSS and DoS paths
Spies would need SUPER POWERS to tap undersea cables
Why mess with armoured 10kV cables when land-based, and legal, snoop tools are easier?
prev story

Whitepapers

Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops
Balancing user privacy and privileged access, in accordance with compliance frameworks and legislation. Evaluating any potential remote control choice.
WIN a very cool portable ZX Spectrum
Win a one-off portable Spectrum built by legendary hardware hacker Ben Heck
Intelligent flash storage arrays
Tegile Intelligent Storage Arrays with IntelliFlash helps IT boost storage utilization and effciency while delivering unmatched storage savings and performance.
High Performance for All
While HPC is not new, it has traditionally been seen as a specialist area – is it now geared up to meet more mainstream requirements?
Beginner's guide to SSL certificates
De-mystify the technology involved and give you the information you need to make the best decision when considering your online security options.