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Home » Hacking News » War Studies: Hack, Crack and Attack Iraq

War Studies: Hack, Crack and Attack Iraq

by Nikola Strahija on January 18th, 2003 A small report in last week's Business Week has left computer hackers collectively choking on their Diet Cokes. While not traditionally the read of choice for most hackers, the magazine caught the eye as it detailed the US air force's new whizz-bang computer system that enables any of its staff around the world, with access to a web browser and the right encryption software, to speak to air command and call in air strikes, reconnaissance sorties or a realtime map of local enemy territory within seconds.

The article is bristling with cock-sure quotes from military types boasting about how it will lead to a new paradigm of battlefield efficiency and speed. The hackers, however, are interested in one simple sentence issued by a confident director of technology at Lockheed Martin, the firm that has designed the system. "All you need is Internet Explorer," says Doug Barton, explaining how simple it is to use. So then, let's get this straight, ask the hackers, you're prepared to gift control of history's most awesome military machine to, say, a spotty teenager in Fresno who prefers to stay indoors fiddling with his computer rather than be outside skateboarding like everyone else his age?

"Everybody knows that this will be hacked in a matter of days," said "Minister of Inferior" this week on an internet message board popular with techies. "I'm already quite uncomfortable with hordes of geeky 14-year-olds having access to my Hotmail account and credit card info. The thought of them soon also being able to wage war is not reassuring." Another contributor, "rmurf62", aware at how notoriously vulnerable Internet Explorer is to hackers, was even more concerned: "'All you need is Internet Explorer' my ass. They sound as confident/exuberant as MicroDollars oft (sic), which is a scary, scary thing indeed." What-if scenarios abound. What if a pilot was shot down over Iraq and Saddam forced him to log on and order a B52 strike on the Pentagon? What if an al-Qaida operative hacked his way in? What if an ambushed soldier needing urgent air cover finds his screen saying, "404 Error - File Not Found." Would he be put on hold will he awaited connection to the technical support hotline? There was someone out there, however, prepared to believe that the US air force may have, just possibly, thought through the question of attack from hackers. "I guess if you come from the school of thought that finds the military to be a bunch of drooling idiots who wouldn't be able to find their own ass if it was handed to them," said "cookiepus", "then you might be inclined to believe that there's going to be a, where the user name is 'NORAD' (North American Aerospace Defence Command) and the password is 'guest'. Otherwise, you're just paranoid." Leo Hickman

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