The Hunt for the Kill Switch

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Pentagon realizes that it no longer controls who manufactures the components
that go into its increasingly complex systems. A single plane like the DOD's
next generation F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, can contain an "insane number" of
chips, says one semiconductor expert familiar with that aircraft's design.
Estimates from other sources put the total at several hundred to more than a
thousand. And tracing a part back to its source is not always
straightforward. The dwindling of domestic chip and electronics
manufacturing in the United States, combined with the phenomenal growth of
suppliers in countries like China, has only deepened the U.S. military's

 In December, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), the
Pentagon's R&D wing, released details about a three-year initiative it calls
the Trust in Integrated Circuits program. The findings from the program
could give the military-and defense contractors who make sensitive
microelectronics like the weapons systems for the F-35-a guaranteed method
of determining whether their chips have been compromised. In January, the
Trust program started its prequalifying rounds by sending to three
contractors four identical versions of a chip that contained unspecified
malicious circuitry. The teams have until the end of this month to ferret
out as many of the devious insertions as they can.

Re: The Hunt for the Kill Switch
finger to keyboard and composed:

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I've often wondered if the US has ever designed such backdoor
circuitry into the weaponry it sells to friendly countries to guard
against the possibility that such countries may one day become their
foes. For example, it would be nice if the Stinger missiles that
Reagan provided to the Taliban were fitted with hidden, remotely
controlled self destruct mechanisms. Of course then you would have the
risk that an accounting error may result in friendly fire.

- Franc Zabkar
Please remove one 'i' from my address when replying by email.

Re: The Hunt for the Kill Switch

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Great idea - a "return to sender" tick box.

Sounds like a variation on the feedback mechanisms MS put into XP upgrades
and XBox360 software.

Re: The Hunt for the Kill Switch
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Would that have been possible in those days ?

These days it would be interesting question -  with GPS so common, it
would be quite feasible to outfit any of this "guided" military
equipment with a system to prevent it from being used on certain
targets (or from certain regions), or a self destruct mechanism as you
suggested.  Very likely it would turn around and shoot you in the
back :)

How easy it would be for a 3rd party to hack this, (lets face it -
almost everything else has been hacked) or retrofit another control
system is another matter. It must be a worrying thought for other
nations who have purchased military hardware from US (or anyone for
that matter) that it may have these capabilities, or that these
capabilities might be activated/automatically downloaded later (via
GPS transmissions?) in a time of war - to suit the US or other makers
"agenda".  Lets face it, the US has had a history of turning on its
former allies when convenient, especially in the middle east. Im sure
that other countries arent above doing this as well if required.

Hopefully our armed forces have sufficiently trained persons who can
check equipment for and detect this sort of thing, and remove it if

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Re: The Hunt for the Kill Switch

   I'd heard the Iraqi army bought British comms radios that transmitted  
the Iraqis weren't aware of as a high speed squirt transmission to  
satellites. This
was during the first gulf war.

Re: The Hunt for the Kill Switch
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Don't know about that, it seems too easy to detect, easier just to inject
the key into the ciphertext...

This, on the other hand, says that the USA has a long history of such
dealings, and of using it for economic purposes. Read the article
about Crypto AG also... < .

The whole thing reads very like a conspiracy theory, but there's a lot of
substance if you dig. It's well documented that the Brits and Americans
sold Enigma machines for many years after the war, because they'd worked
out how to break those codes. It was quite natural to extend that into
electronic cryptography.

Clifford Heath.

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