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United States

HAARP Holds Open House To Dispel Rumors Of Mind Control (adn.com) 145

An anonymous Slashdot reader writes: HAARP -- the former Air Force/Navy/DARPA research program in Alaska -- will host an open house Saturday where "We hope to show people that it is not capable of mind control and not capable of weather control and all the other things it's been accused of..." said Sue Mitchell, spokesperson for the geophysical institute at the University of Alaska. "We hope that people will be able to see the actual science of it." HAARP, which was turned over to The University of Alaska last August, has been blamed for poor crop yields in Russia, with conspiracy theorists also warning of "a super weapon capable of mind control or weather control, with enough juice to trigger hurricanes, tornadoes and earthquakes."

The facility's 180 high-frequency antennas -- spread across 33 acres -- will be made available for public tours, and there will also be interactive displays and an unmanned aircraft 'petting zoo'. The Alaska Dispatch News describes it as "one of the world's few centers for high-power and high-frequency study of the ionosphere... important because radio waves used for communication and navigation reflect back to Earth, allowing long-distance, short-wave broadcasting."

Robotics

'Octobot' Is The World's First Soft-Bodied Robot (sciencemag.org) 44

sciencehabit quotes a report from Science Magazine: Researchers have created the first completely soft-bodied robot, dubbed the 'octobot.' The palm-sized machine's exterior is made of silicone. And whereas other soft robots have had at least a few hard parts, such as batteries or wires, the octobot uses a small reservoir of hydrogen peroxide as fuel. The basic design can be scaled up or down, increasing or decreasing fuel capacity depending on the robot's job. As the field of soft robotics advances, the scientists envision these robots being used for marine search and rescue, oceanic temperature sensing, and military surveillance. The report adds: "When the hydrogen peroxide washes over flecks of platinum embedded within the octobot, the resulting chemical reaction produces gas that inflates and flexes the robot's arms. As described online today in Nature, the gas flows through a series of 3D-printed pneumatic chambers that link the octobot's eight arms; their flexing propels it through water."
The Military

The US Army Has Too Many Video Games (vice.com) 82

An anonymous reader shares a Motherboard report:The US Army sees itself in a transitional period. Unlike a decade ago, soldiers are training less today on how to conduct "stability" operations for a counter-insurgency campaign, and more on what the Army does best: fighting other armies. But training is expensive and requires time and a lot of space. Training a gunner for an M-1 Abrams tank means reserving time on a limited number of ranges and expending real ammunition. So to lower costs and make training more efficient -- in theory -- the Army has adopted a variety of games to simulate war. There's just a few problems. Some of the Army's virtual simulators sit collecting dust, and one of them is more expensive and less effective than live training. At one base, soldiers preferred to play mouse-and-keyboard games over a more "realistic" virtual room. Then again, the Army has cooler games than you do. M-1 tank gunners, for example, can train inside a full-scale, computerized mock-up of their station called the Advanced Gunnery Training System, which comes inside a large transportable container. Instead of looking through real sights down a range, the soldier squints through a replica and sees a virtual simulacrum of, say, an enemy tank. Push a button and the "cannon" fires. The Army fields similar systems for the Stryker, a wheeled armored troop transport that fits an optional 105-millimeter gun. Soldiers train inside another simulated gunnery station for the M-2 Bradley fighting vehicle. Another system, Common Driver, simulates a variety of military vehicles.
The Military

Japan Plans To Build Unmanned Fighter Jets (reuters.com) 117

Slashdot reader It's the tripnaut! quotes an article from Reuters: Japan aims to develop a prototype drone fighter jet in two decades with private sector help in a technology strategy that focuses on weapons communications and lasers, according to a document seen by Reuters... The military technology plan calls for first developing an unmanned surveillance aircraft in the next decade and then an unmanned fighter jet 10 years later, the document showed...

The ministry will also allocate budget funds to acquire an upgraded version of the F-35 stealth fighter, made by U.S. company Lockheed Martin Corp...as tension rises in the East China Sea and North Korea steps up its missile threat, government officials with direct knowledge of the matter said.

Bitcoin

Eleven Reasons To Be Excited About The Future of Technology (medium.com) 282

Chris Dixon, an American internet entrepreneur and investor in a range of tech and media companies including Kickstarter and Foursquare has written an essay on Medium highlighting some of the reasons why we should be excited about the future of technology. The reasons he has listed are as follows: 1. Self-Driving Cars: Self-driving cars exist today that are safer than human-driven cars in most driving conditions. Over the next 3-5 years they'll get even safer, and will begin to go mainstream.
2. Clean Energy: Attempts to fight climate change by reducing the demand for energy haven't worked. Fortunately, scientists, engineers, and entrepreneurs have been working hard on the supply side to make clean energy convenient and cost-effective.
3. Virtual and Augmented Reality: Computer processors only recently became fast enough to power comfortable and convincing virtual and augmented reality experiences. Companies like Facebook, Google, Apple, and Microsoft are investing billions of dollars to make VR and AR more immersive, comfortable, and affordable.
4. Drones and Flying Cars: GPS started out as a military technology but is now used to hail taxis, get mapping directions, and hunt Pokemon. Likewise, drones started out as a military technology, but are increasingly being used for a wide range of consumer and commercial applications.
5. Artificial Intelligence: Artificial intelligence has made rapid advances in the last decade, due to new algorithms and massive increases in data collection and computing power.
6. Pocket Supercomputers for Everyone: By 2020, 80% of adults on earth will have an internet-connected smartphone. An iPhone 6 has about 2 billion transistors, roughly 625 times more transistors than a 1995 Intel Pentium computer. Today's smartphones are what used to be considered supercomputers.
7. Cryptocurrencies and Blockchains: Protocols are the plumbing of the internet. Most of the protocols we use today were developed decades ago by academia and government. Since then, protocol development mostly stopped as energy shifted to developing proprietary systems like social networks and messaging apps. Cryptocurrency and blockchain technologies are changing this by providing a new business model for internet protocols. This year alone, hundreds of millions of dollars were raised for a broad range of innovative blockchain-based protocols.
8. High-Quality Online Education: While college tuition skyrockets, anyone with a smartphone can study almost any topic online, accessing educational content that is mostly free and increasingly high-quality.
9. Better Food through Science: Earth is running out of farmable land and fresh water. This is partly because our food production systems are incredibly inefficient. It takes an astounding 1799 gallons of water to produce 1 pound of beef. Fortunately, a variety of new technologies are being developed to improve our food system.
10. Computerized Medicine: Until recently, computers have only been at the periphery of medicine, used primarily for research and record keeping. Today, the combination of computer science and medicine is leading to a variety of breakthroughs.
11. A New Space Age: Since the beginning of the space age in the 1950s, the vast majority of space funding has come from governments. But that funding has been in decline: for example, NASA's budget dropped from about 4.5% of the federal budget in the 1960s to about 0.5% of the federal budget today.

Communications

US Air Force Wants To Plasma Bomb The Sky To Improve Radio Communication (newscientist.com) 159

An anonymous reader quotes a report from New Scientist: [The U.S. Air Force has plans to improve radio communication over long distances by detonating plasma bombs in the upper atmosphere using a fleet of micro satellites. It's not the first time we've tried to improve radio communication by tinkering with the ionosphere. HAARP, the High Frequency Active Auroral Research Program in Alaska, stimulates the ionosphere with radiation from ground-based antennas to produce radio-reflecting plasma.] Now the USAF wants to do this more efficiently, with tiny satellites -- such as CubeSats -- carrying large volumes of ionized gas directly into the ionosphere. As well as increasing the range of radio signals, the USAF says it wants to smooth out the effects of solar winds, which can knock out GPS, and also investigate the possibility of blocking communication from enemy satellites. [There are at least two major challenges. One is building a plasma generator small enough to fit on a CubeSat -- roughly 10 centimeters cubed. Then there's the problem of controlling exactly how the plasma will disperse once it is released. The USAF has awarded three contracts to teams who are sketching out ways to tackle the approach. The best proposal will be selected for a second phase in which plasma generators will be tested in vacuum chambers and exploratory space flights.]
Government

How The US Will Likely Respond To Shadow Brokers Leak (dailydot.com) 110

blottsie writes: The NSA and FBI are both expected to investigate the leak of NSA-linked cyberweapons this week by an entity calling itself the Shadow Brokers, experts with knowledge of the process tell the Daily Dot. However, multiple experts say any retaliation by the U.S. will likely remain secret to keep the tactical advantage. Meanwhile, Motherboard reports that some former NSA staffers believe the leak is the work of a "rogue NSA insider." "First, the incident will be investigated by the National Security Agency as it tracks down exactly what went so wrong that top-secret offensive code and exploits ended up stolen and published for the world to see," reports Daily Dot. "An FBI counterintelligence investigation will likely follow, according to experts with knowledge of the process. [...] Following the investigation, the NSA and other entities within the United States government will have to decide on a response." The response will depend on a lot of things, such as whether or not an insider at the NSA is responsible for the breach -- a theory that is backed by a former NSA staffer and other experts. "The process is called an IGL: Intelligence Gain/Loss," reports Daily Dot. "Authorities suss out a pro and con list for various reactions, including directly and publicly blaming another country. [Chris Finan, a former director of cybersecurity legislation in the Obama administration and now CEO of the security firm Manifold Technology, said:] 'Some people think about responding in kind: A U.S. cyberattack. Doing that gives up the asymmetric response advantage you have in cyberspace.' Finan urged authorities to look at all tools, including economic sanctions against individuals, companies, groups, governments, or diplomatic constraints, to send a message through money rather than possibly burning a cyberwar advantage. Exactly if and how the U.S. responds to the Shadow Brokers incident will depend on the source of the attack. Attribution in cyberwar is tricky or even impossible much of the time. It quickly becomes a highly politicized process ripe with anonymous sources and little solid fact."
Transportation

World's Largest Aircraft Completes Its First Flight (cnn.com) 190

The world's largest aircraft has finally completed its first flight after months of preparation and years of searching for funding. The Airlander 10 as it's called spent 20 minutes in the air on Wednesday, landing safely at Cardington Airfield north of London. CNNMoney reports: "Part airship, part helicopter, part plane, the 300-foot long aircraft is about 50 feet longer than the world's biggest passenger planes. The Airlander, made by British company Hybrid Air Vehicles, has four engines and no internal structure. It maintains its shape thanks to the pressure of the 38,000 cubic meters of helium inside its hull, which is made from ultralight carbon fiber. The aircraft was originally designed for U.S. military surveillance. But the project was grounded in 2013 because of defense spending cuts. [The team behind the giant blimp-like aircraft] said the aircraft could carry communications equipment or other cargo, undertake search and rescue operations, or do military and commercial survey work. The Airlander can stay airborne for up to five days at a time if manned, and for more than two weeks if unmanned. It can carry up to 10 tons of cargo at a maximum speed of 91 miles per hour. The aircraft doesn't need a runway to take off, meaning it can operate from land, snow, ice, desert and even open water." You can view the historic flight for yourself here (Warning: headphone users beware of loud sound).
The Military

How The Navy Tried To Turn Sharks into Torpedos (undark.org) 60

Long-time Slashdot reader v3rgEz writes: Documents recently declassified show one of the odder experimental weapons developed after World War II: Weaponized sharks. Guided by sharp electric shocks, the sharks were trained to deliver explosive payloads -- essentially turning them into living, breathing, remote-controlled torpedoes that could be put to use in the Pacific Theater.
Following years of research on "shark repellent," the Navy spent 13 years building a special head gear for sharks which sensed the shark's direction and tried to deliver shocks if the sharks strayed off-course. The journalist who tracked down details of "Project Headgear" published the recently-declassified information on MIT's journalism site Undark, noting that "The shark wasn't so much a 'torpedo' as a suicide bomber... "
Space

How a 1967 Solar Storm Nearly Led To Nuclear War (space.com) 66

schwit1 quotes a report from Space.com: A powerful solar storm nearly heated the Cold War up catastrophically a half century ago, a new study suggests. The U.S. Air Force began preparing for war on May 23, 1967, thinking that the Soviet Union had jammed a set of American surveillance radars. But military space-weather forecasters intervened in time, telling top officials that a powerful sun eruption was to blame, according to the study. "Had it not been for the fact that we had invested very early on in solar and geomagnetic storm observations and forecasting, the impact [of the storm] likely would have been much greater," Delores Knipp, a space physicist at the University of Colorado Boulder and the study's lead author, said in a statement. "This was a lesson learned in how important it is to be prepared." Initially, it was assumed that the Soviet Union was to blame. Since radar jamming is considered an act of war, "commanders quickly began preparing nuclear-weapon-equipped aircraft for launch." Spoiler: Solar forecasters at the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) figured out it was a flare that caused the outages, not the Soviets. You can read the abstract of the paper for free here.
Crime

32 States Offer Online Voting, But Experts Warn It Isn't Secure (bostonglobe.com) 182

Long-time Slashdot reader Geoffrey.landis writes: According to the Washington Post, 32 states have implemented some form of online voting for the 2016 U.S. presidential election -- even though multiple experts warn that internet voting is not secure. In many cases, the online voting options are for absentee ballots, overseas citizens or military members deployed overseas. According to Verified Voting, "voted ballots sent via Internet simply cannot be made secure and make easy and inviting targets for attackers ranging from lone hackers to foreign governments seeking to undermine US elections."
And yet 39% of this year's likely voters said they'd choose to vote online if given the option, according a new article in the Boston Globe, noting that "All 50 states and D.C. send ballots to overseas voters electronically," with Alabama even allowing them to actually cast their ballots through a special web site. "Security is exponentially increased over any other kind of voting because each ballot, as well as the electronic ballot box, has military-grade encryption," argues the founder of the software company that assures the site's security. "She also claims that Web voting is more accurate," reports the Boston Globe. "No more hanging chads or marks on a paper ballot that may be difficult to interpret. Web systems can also save money and can be upgraded or reconfigured as laws change..."
The Military

The New F-35 Is So Stealthy, It's Harder To Train Pilots (airforcetimes.com) 343

An anonymous reader quotes a report from the Air Force Times: The F-35 Lightning II is so stealthy, pilots are facing an unusual challenge. They're having difficulty participating in some types of training exercises, a squadron commander told reporters Wednesday. During a recent exercise at Mountain Home Air Force Base, Idaho, F-35 squadrons wanted to practice evading surface-to-air threats. There was just one problem: No one on the ground could track the plane. 'If they never saw us, they couldn't target us,' said Lt. Col. George Watkins, the commander of the 34th Fighter Squadron at Hill Air Force Base, Utah. The F-35s resorted to flipping on their transponders, used for FAA identification, so that simulated anti-air weapons could track the planes, Watkins said.
Privacy

GhostMail Closes in September, Leaves Users Searching For Secure Email Alternatives (zdnet.com) 158

On September 1, "GhostMail will no longer provide secure email services unless you are an enterprise client," reports ZDNet. "According to the company, it is 'simply not worth the risk.'" GhostMail provided a free and anonymous "military encrypted" e-mail service based in Switzerland, and collected "as little metadata" as possible. But this week on its home page, GhostMail told its users "Since we started our project, the world has changed for the worse and we do not want to take the risk of supplying our extremely secure service to the wrong people... In general, we believe strongly in the right to privacy, but we have taken a strategic decision to only supply our platform and services to the enterprise segment."

GhostMail is referring their users to other free services like Protonmail as an alternative, but an anonymous Slashdot reader asks: What options does an average person have for non-NSA-spied-on email? I am sure there are still some Ghostmail competitors out there but I'm wondering if it's better to coax friends and family to use encryption within their given client (Gmail, Yahoo, Outlook, whatever...) And are there any options for hosting a "private" email service: inviting friends and family to use it and have it kind of hosted locally. Ghostmail-in-a-box or some such?
Earth

Mysterious, Ice-Buried Cold War Military Base May Be Unearthed By Climate Change (sciencemag.org) 108

Slashdot reader sciencehabit quotes Science magazine: It sounds like something out of a James Bond movie: a secret military operation hidden beneath the Greenland Ice Sheet. But that's exactly what transpired at Camp Century during the Cold War. In 1959, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers built the subterranean city under the guise of conducting polar research -- and scientists there did drill the first ice core ever used to study climate. But deep inside the frozen tunnels, the corps also explored the feasibility of Project Iceworm, a plan to store and launch hundreds of ballistic missiles from inside the ice.

The military ultimately rejected the project, and the corps abandoned Camp Century in 1967. Engineers anticipated that the ice -- already a dozen meters thick -- would continue to accumulate in northwestern Greenland, permanently entombing what they left behind. Now, climate change has upended that assumption. New research suggests that as early as 2090, rates of ice loss at the site could exceed gains from new snowfall. And within a century after that, melting could begin to release waste stored at the camp, including sewage, diesel fuel, persistent organic pollutants like PCBs, and radiological waste from the camp's nuclear generator, which was removed during decommissioning.

Communications

1,000+ US Spies Are Protecting Rio Olympics, Says Report (nbcnews.com) 105

An anonymous reader writes from a report via NBC News: U.S. intelligence agencies have assigned more than 1,000 spies to security at the Rio 2016 Summer Games. NBC News reports: "The classified report outlines an operation that encompasses all 17 U.S. intelligence agencies, including those of the armed services, and involves human intelligence, spy satellites, electronic eavesdropping, and cyber and social media monitoring. Areas of cooperation include vetting 10,000-plus athletes and 35,000-plus security and police personnel and others; monitoring terrorists' social media accounts; and offering U.S. help in securing computer networks, the review shows. 'U.S. intelligence agencies are working closely with Brazilian intelligence officials to support their efforts to identify and disrupt potential threats to the Olympic Games in Rio,' said Richard Kolko, a spokesman for National Intelligence Director James Clapper."
Software

DJI Issues Software Update That Implements No-Fly Zones For Rio Olympics (pcmag.com) 59

An anonymous reader writes: DJI has issued a software update this week that prevents its unmanned aerial vehicles from flying over the Olympic venues. The temporary no-fly zones, which will be in place for the duration of the games, include Rio de Janeiro, Sao Paulo, Brasilia, and several other Brazilian cities. The Brazilian military requested DJI to prohibit its drones from entering certain coordinates in the cities, and DJI complied. "DJI is proud to work with Brazilian authorities to put temporary no-fly zones in place during this important time, in order to increase safety and security at high-profile locations and reduce the likelihood of drone operators inadvertently entering sensitive areas," Manual Martinez, DJI Latin America corporate communications director, said in a statement. "The overwhelming majority of DJI customers want to operate safely and within the law," Martinez said. "And establishing clear no-fly zones helps reduce any potential for drone operations that could distract from the upcoming events."
Social Networks

Zimbabwe Military Threatens To 'Deal With' Social Media-Powered Protesters (reuters.com) 56

Things are not looking good in Zimbabwe. Amid tensions between the citizens and longtime president Robert Mugabe, the country's army commander said today that his soldiers will "deal with threats" from activists using social media to mobilize anti-government protests, the first time the military has commented on the demonstrations. Reuters reports: Lieutenant-General Valerio Sibanda, the Zimbabwe National Army Commander, said in an interview with state-owned The Herald newspaper that social media activism was cyber warfare that the army would deal with. Neither the army, which has anchored President Robert Mugabe's 36-year rule, nor the police force have been paid on time since June. Zimbabwe has seen several protests in recent months with unemployment above 80 percent, dollar shortages worsening as commodity prices slumped and as the region suffers its worst drought for 25 years. The largest anti-government protest in Zimbabwe in the last decade was organized on social media last month, when a strike by #ThisFlag movement shut down businesses. "As an army, at our institutions of training, we are already training our officers to be able to deal with this new threat we call cyber warfare where weapons -- not necessarily guns but basically information and communication technology -- are being used to mobilize people to do the wrong things," Sibanda said.
The Military

US Air Force Declares F-35A Ready For Combat (defensenews.com) 280

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Defense News: The U.S. Air Force on Tuesday declared its first squadron of F-35As ready for battle, 15 years after Lockheed Martin won the contract to make the plane. The milestone means that the service can now send its first operational F-35 formation -- the 34th Fighter Squadron located at Hill Air Force Base, Utah -- into combat operations anywhere in the world. The service, which plans to buy 1,763 F-35As, is the single-largest customer of the joint strike fighter program, which also includes the U.S. Marine Corps, U.S. Navy and a host of governments worldwide. "Given the national security strategy, we need it," [Air Combat Command (ACC) head Gen. Herbert "Hawk" Carlisle] said. "You look at the potential adversaries out there, or the potential environments where we have to operate this airplane, the attributes that the F-35 brings -- the ability to penetrate defensive airspace, the ability to deliver precision munitions with a sensor suite that fuses data from multiple information sources -- is something our nation needs." Carlisle said in July that even though he would feel comfortable sending the F-35 to a fight as soon as the jet becomes operational, ACC has formed a "deliberate path" where the aircraft would deploy in stages: first to Red Flag exercises, then as a "theater security package" to Europe and the Asia-Pacific. The fighter probably won't deploy to the Middle East to fight the Islamic State group any earlier than 2017, he said, but if a combatant commander asked for the capability, "I'd send them down in a heartbeat because they're very, very good." The declaration is another achievement for the $379 billion program -- the Pentagon's largest weapons project -- following the declaration of a first squadron of F-35s ready for combat made by the U.S. Marine Corps in July 2015.
United States

America Uses Stealthy Submarines To Hack Other Countries' Systems (washingtonpost.com) 177

When the Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump asked Russia -- wittingly or otherwise -- to launch hack attacks to find Hillary Clinton's missing emails, it caused a stir of commotion. Russia is allegedly behind DNC's leaked emails. But The Washington Post is reminding us that U.S.'s efforts in the cyber-security world aren't much different. (could be paywalled; same article syndicated elsewhere From the report: The U.S. approach to this digital battleground is pretty advanced. For example: Did you know that the military uses its submarines as underwater hacking platforms? In fact, subs represent an important component of America's cyber strategy. They act defensively to protect themselves and the country from digital attack, but -- more interestingly -- they also have a role to play in carrying out cyberattacks, according to two U.S. Navy officials at a recent Washington conference. "There is a -- an offensive capability that we are, that we prize very highly," said Rear Adm. Michael Jabaley, the U.S. Navy's program executive officer for submarines. "And this is where I really can't talk about much, but suffice to say we have submarines out there on the front lines that are very involved, at the highest technical level, doing exactly the kind of things that you would want them to do."

The so-called "silent service" has a long history of using information technology to gain an edge on America's rivals. In the 1970s, the U.S. government instructed its submarines to tap undersea communications cables off the Russian coast, recording the messages being relayed back and forth between Soviet forces. (The National Security Agency has continued that tradition, monitoring underwater fiber cables as part of its globe-spanning intelligence-gathering apparatus. In some cases, the government has struck closed-door deals with the cable operators ensuring that U.S. spies can gain secure access to the information traveling over those pipes.) These days, some U.S. subs come equipped with sophisticated antennas that can be used to intercept and manipulate other people's communications traffic, particularly on weak or unencrypted networks. "We've gone where our targets have gone" -- that is to say, online, said Stewart Baker, the National Security Agency's former general counsel, in an interview. "Only the most security-conscious now are completely cut off from the Internet." Cyberattacks are also much easier to carry out than to defend against, he said.

The Military

Russian Government Gets 'Hacked Back', Attacks Possibly Launched By The NSA (bbc.com) 173

An anonymous reader write: Russian government bodies have been hit by a "professional" cyber attack, according to the country's intelligence service, which said the attack targeted state organizations and defense companies, as well as Russia's "critically important infrastructures". The agency told the BBC that the powerful malware "allowed those responsible to switch on cameras and microphones within the computer, take screenshots and track what was being typed by monitoring keyboard strokes."
ABC News reports that the NSA "is likely 'hacking back' Russia's government-linked cyber-espionage teams "to see once and for all if they're responsible for the massive breach at the Democratic National Committee, according to three former senior intelligence officials... Robert Joyce, chief of the NSA's shadowy Tailored Access Operations, declined to comment on the DNC hack specifically, but said in general that the NSA has technical capabilities and legal authorities that allow the agency to 'hack back' suspected hacking groups, infiltrating their systems to gather intelligence about their operations in the wake of a cyber attack... In some past unrelated cases...NSA hackers have been able to watch from the inside as malicious actors conduct their operations in real time."

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