Feeds

Pants bombs vs America: The infernal conflict

Why the nether regions are not a good place to pack explosives

SANS - Survey on application security programs

Comment The underwear bomber almost perfectly illustrated the hard place the US has found itself in since 9/11.

For all Washington's efforts to wall off the US, it is still unable to prevent the Umar Farouk Abdulmutallabs from walking in off the street, volunteering for service at the local al-Qaeda affiliate in the impoverished Muslim nation of the moment, Yemen, and throwing themselves at airplane security.

The only upside is that such volunteers are generally of low quality, perhaps guaranteeing that their jerry-built experiments in explosive chemistry will fail.

While there's been no definitive explanation of the mechanics of the underwear bomb - media confusion, the usual American authority desire to suppress information, and the nature of the thing itself - the pictures that have been released indicate Abdulmutallab succeeded only in charring his device and parts of himself.

What may have been thought to be workable in a vacant lot somewhere in Yemen was hardly a plan that was sophisticated or foolproof in the hands of a 'warrior' like Abdulmutallab. He had to get the device onto an aeroplane where it had to be yanked out of the trousers in the bathroom after being sat and sweat and farted upon for hours, then squirted with a syringe of acid, the syringe partly destroyed by the corrosive effect.

It was desperate and flailing, too constrained by its design and the requirements needed to make it work to make it a game-changing formula.

However, as the subsequent national stir made clear, it was still a success. The media became hysterical and the nation's political leadership overreacted, with the usual result. We got more vows of increased punishment to be meted out in the faraway place - Yemen - and were promised more technology and watch lists promised to keep the childlike populace safe.

Previously, on 30 December, the Los Angeles Times had informed its readers of a rectum bomb.

"In an elaborate ruse, a bomber posing as a repentant extremist tried to assassinate Prince Muhammad bin Nayef, Saudi Arabia's security chief," it reported. "[An al Qaeda] operative prepared an explosive device that was inserted into the rectum of the Saudi militant, who flew from Yemen to Jidda, Saudi Arabia to meet with the prince... He got through airport and palace security before the explosive was triggered by a call from Yemen, killing him but only wounding the prince.

"The explosive was PETN..."

This was flabbergasting - and wrong. But in the US, and for the mob journalism which accompanies every domestic terror story, careful thought has no place.

In fact, other media outlets had bitten on the rectum bomb story back in September, notably the Murdoch-owned New York Post, whose editors thought it was mighty funny, calling it the "butt-bomb" and dubbing the perpetrator an "ass-assin".

"A suicide bomber recently put himself next to a member of the Saudi royal family, having outwitted bomb-detection machines in the palace, to set off an explosion using a charge that had been hidden in his rectum," reported the Post claimed.

However, other stories at the time were more reasonable, indicating it was an underwear bomb, hidden there because Islamic mores would preclude a search. The Saudi government pooh-poohed the rectum bomb because it exploded with a flash of light, indicating exterior placement, and the explosives were thought too toxic to have been inside the rectal mucosa for hours. It also detonated poorly, killing its wearer but only injuring the target.

3 Big data security analytics techniques

More from The Register

next story
Lavabit loses contempt of court appeal over protecting Snowden, customers
Judges rule complaints about government power are too little, too late
Don't let no-hire pact suit witnesses call Steve Jobs a bullyboy, plead Apple and Google
'Irrelevant' character evidence should be excluded – lawyers
Record labels sue Pandora over vintage song royalties
Companies want payout on recordings made before 1972
EFF: Feds plan to put 52 MILLION FACES into recognition database
System would identify faces as part of biometrics collection
Edward Snowden on his Putin TV appearance: 'Why all the criticism?'
Denies Q&A cameo was meant to slam US, big-up Russia
Ex-Tony Blair adviser is new top boss at UK spy-hive GCHQ
Robert Hannigan to replace Sir Iain Lobban in the autumn
Judge halts spread of zombie Nortel patents to Texas in Google trial
Epic Rockstar patent war to be waged in California
German space centre endures cyber attack
Chinese code retrieved but NSA hack not ruled out
APPLE FAILS to ditch class action suit over ebook PRICE-FIX fiasco
Do not pass go, do cough (up to) $840m in damages
Whoever you vote for, Google gets in
Report uncovers giant octopus squid of lobbying influence
prev story

Whitepapers

Mainstay ROI - Does application security pay?
In this whitepaper learn how you and your enterprise might benefit from better software security.
Combat fraud and increase customer satisfaction
Based on their experience using HP ArcSight Enterprise Security Manager for IT security operations, Finansbank moved to HP ArcSight ESM for fraud management.
The benefits of software based PBX
Why you should break free from your proprietary PBX and how to leverage your existing server hardware.
Top three mobile application threats
Learn about three of the top mobile application security threats facing businesses today and recommendations on how to mitigate the risk.
3 Big data security analytics techniques
Applying these Big Data security analytics techniques can help you make your business safer by detecting attacks early, before significant damage is done.