As Lake Mead hits levels not seen since 1937, Las Vegas plans Multi Billion Dollar water pipeline

From the Las Vegas Sun:

Its no secret that Las Vegas needs water, and its also no secret that Las Vegas is struggling to meet the ever increasing demand for water. The photo below shows just how far water levels have dropped in Lake Mead, Vegas’s primary supply of water.

Levels havent been this low since 1937 when the lake was first filled.

Photo showing how far water level's have dropped in Lake Mead
Photo showing how far water level has dropped in Lake Mead

The light grey area seen on the photograph is a watermark caused by scale deposits that happened while that area was under water.

Its already 114 feet lower today than it was in 2000 and the Scripps Institute of Oceanography and the University of California, San Diego believe that the lake could be entirely drained by 2021

The answer? At the moment The Southern Nevada Water Authority hopes that a new 300 mile water pipeline that draws in water from as many other local water sources in rural Nevada as possible will solve their immediate need. The cost of this pipeline is estimated to be somewhere between $4bn and $15bn.

Just how long this will stem the inevitable worsening of Nevada’s water situation remains to be seen, as the pipeline is still in planning stages with numerous opponents suggesting that desalination plants would be a much more sustainable solution instead of potentially harming the environment and drawing water from yet another equally finite resource.

What ever happens, Las Vegas is still a city in a desert that has an every increasing thirst for water.

From Wired: US Predator and Reaper drones infected with keylogger virus.

Exclusive: Computer Virus Hits U.S. Drone Fleet
By Noah Shachtman, Wired Magazine.
October 7, 2011

US Predator and Reaper drones infected with keylogger virus.

A computer virus has infected the cockpits of America’s Predator and Reaper drones, logging pilots’ every keystroke as they remotely fly missions over Afghanistan and other warzones.

The virus, first detected nearly two weeks ago by the military’s Host-Based Security System, has not prevented pilots at Creech Air Force Base in Nevada from flying their missions overseas. Nor have there been any confirmed incidents of classified information being lost or sent to an outside source. But the virus has resisted multiple efforts to remove it from Creech’s computers, network security specialists say. And the infection underscores the ongoing security risks in what has become the U.S. military’s most important weapons system.

“We keep wiping it off, and it keeps coming back,” says a source familiar with the network infection, one of three that told Danger Room about the virus. “We think it’s benign. But we just don’t know.”

Military network security specialists aren’t sure whether the virus and its so-called “keylogger” payload were introduced intentionally or by accident; it may be a common piece of malware that just happened to make its way into these sensitive networks. The specialists don’t know exactly how far the virus has spread. But they’re sure that the infection has hit both classified and unclassified machines at Creech. That raises the possibility, at least, that secret data may have been captured by the keylogger, and then transmitted over the public internet to someone outside the military chain of command.

Drones have become America’s tool of choice in both its conventional and shadow wars, allowing U.S. forces to attack targets and spy on its foes without risking American lives. Since President Obama assumed office, a fleet of approximately 30 CIA-directed drones have hit targets in Pakistan more than 230 times; all told, these drones have killed more than 2,000 suspected militants and civilians, according to the Washington Post. More than 150 additional Predator and Reaper drones, under U.S. Air Force control, watch over the fighting in Afghanistan and Iraq. American military drones struck 92 times in Libya between mid-April and late August. And late last month, an American drone killed top terrorist Anwar al-Awlaki — part of an escalating unmanned air assault in the Horn of Africa and southern Arabian peninsula.

But despite their widespread use, the drone systems are known to have security flaws. Many Reapers and Predators don’t encrypt the video they transmit to American troops on the ground. In the summer of 2009, U.S. forces discovered “days and days and hours and hours” of the drone footage on the laptops of Iraqi insurgents. A $26 piece of software allowed the militants to capture the video.

The lion’s share of U.S. drone missions are flown by Air Force pilots stationed at Creech, a tiny outpost in the barren Nevada desert, 20 miles north of a state prison and adjacent to a one-story casino. In a nondescript building, down a largely unmarked hallway, is a series of rooms, each with a rack of servers and a “ground control station,” or GCS. There, a drone pilot and a sensor operator sit in their flight suits in front of a series of screens. In the pilot’s hand is the joystick, guiding the drone as it soars above Afghanistan, Iraq, or some other battlefield.

Some of the GCSs are classified secret, and used for conventional warzone surveillance duty. The GCSs handling more exotic operations are top secret. None of the remote cockpits are supposed to be connected to the public internet. Which means they are supposed to be largely immune to viruses and other network security threats.

But time and time again, the so-called “air gaps” between classified and public networks have been bridged, largely through the use of discs and removable drives. In late 2008, for example, the drives helped introduce the agent.btz worm to hundreds of thousands of Defense Department computers. The Pentagon is still disinfecting machines, three years later.

Use of the drives is now severely restricted throughout the military. But the base at Creech was one of the exceptions, until the virus hit. Predator and Reaper crews use removable hard drives to load map updates and transport mission videos from one computer to another. The virus is believed to have spread through these removable drives. Drone units at other Air Force bases worldwide have now been ordered to stop their use.

In the meantime, technicians at Creech are trying to get the virus off the GCS machines. It has not been easy. At first, they followed removal instructions posted on the website of the Kaspersky security firm. “But the virus kept coming back,” a source familiar with the infection says. Eventually, the technicians had to use a software tool called BCWipe to completely erase the GCS’ internal hard drives. “That meant rebuilding them from scratch” — a time-consuming effort.

The Air Force declined to comment directly on the virus. “We generally do not discuss specific vulnerabilities, threats, or responses to our computer networks, since that helps people looking to exploit or attack our systems to refine their approach,” says Lt. Col. Tadd Sholtis, a spokesman for Air Combat Command, which oversees the drones and all other Air Force tactical aircraft. “We invest a lot in protecting and monitoring our systems to counter threats and ensure security, which includes a comprehensive response to viruses, worms, and other malware we discover.”

However, insiders say that senior officers at Creech are being briefed daily on the virus.

“It’s getting a lot of attention,” the source says. “But no one’s panicking yet.”

Westboro Baptist Church plans to Picket Steve Jobs Funeral


Members of the controversial Westboro Baptist church better known for their extremely distasteful campaign against homosexuality though the picketing the funerals of US servicemen killed in action have announced that they will be targeting the funeral of Steve Jobs.

The group, best known for their rainbow “God hates fags” signs and web page, are claiming the action is in response to Jobs not using his wealth to promote their interpretation of the Bible and for Apple being consistently voted one of the most gay-friendly employers. The group’s grievances and its original protest plans were posted from iPhones, something the Twittersphere has been quick to point out.

WestBoro Baptist Church members using iPhones to tweet. - Picture from TheRegister


“We’re not against technology; we’re against using it to promote what God hates”, said Megan Phelps-Roper, granddaughter of the church’s founder Fred Phelps, before tweeting a picture of the group using their iPhones at a protest.

It will be interesting to see what happens when grieving Apple Fanboi’s clash with them over the  desecration of their beloved leader’s funeral..

Assuming of course that anyone can get past the immense security perimeter that will almost certainly surround the funeral.

South Korea’s Deadly Robots

Tensions between South and North Korea are always high with each side striving to gain the upper hand in some way and the constant threat of incursion by one side or the other hangs over the peninsular – As a result the mountains of Seoul are covered with both manned and unmanned defensive positons.

One radical new strategy favoured by South Korea is the development of autonomous robotic defence systems that can be left to guard the DMZ. There are several different types, though most take the form of static sentry guns with autonomous targeting systems that are *hopefully* capable of determining the correct target to obliterate.

DoDAAM’s Super aEgis II

Picture of DoDAMM's Super aEgis 2
DoDAMM's Super aEgis 2 autonomous sentry gun.

From gizmag:

The Super aEgis 2 is an automated gun tower that can find and lock on to a human-sized target in pitch darkness at a distance of up to 1.36 miles (2.2 kilometers). It uses a 35x zoom CCD camera with ‘enhancement feature’ for bad weather, in conjunction with a dual FOV, autofocus Infra-Red sensor, to pick out targets.

Then it brings the pain, either with a standard 12.7mm caliber machine-gun, a 40mm automatic grenade launcher upgrade, or whatever other weapons system you want to bolt on to it, including surface-to-air missiles. A laser range finder helps to calibrate aim, and a gyroscopic stabilizer unit helps correct both the video system’s aim and the direction of the guns after recoil pushes them off-target.
Each 140 kg (308.6 lb.) unit can be rigidly mounted or put on a moving vehicle, where the gyro stabilization would be a huge asset. They can operate in fully autonomous mode, firing first and asking questions later, or they can be put into a manual mode for more human intervention. All machines communicate back to headquarters through a LAN cable or wireless network.

Manufacturer’s web page:

Samsung’s SGR-A1

Image of Samsung SGR-A1 Robot Sentry
Samsung SGR-A1 Robot Sentry

From wikipedia

In 2006, Samsung Techwin announced a $200,000, all weather, 5.56 mm robotic machine gun to guard the Korean DMZ. It is capable of tracking multiple moving targets using IR and visible light cameras, and is under the control of a human operator. The Intelligent Surveillance and Guard Robot can “identify and shoot a target automatically from over two miles away.” The robot, which was developed by a South Korean university, uses “twin optical and infrared sensors to identify targets from 2.5 miles in daylight and around half that distance at night.”

It is also equipped with communication equipment (a microphone and speakers), “so that passwords can be exchanged with human troops.” If the person gives the wrong password, the robot can “sound an alarm or fire at the target using rubber bullets or a swivel-mounted K-3 machine gun.” South Korea’s soldiers in Iraq are “currently using robot sentries to guard home bases.”

Manufacturer’s website:

Dutch court ruling heralds doom for usenet and threatens ISPs all over Europe

The Dutch Music and Film industry organisation “Stichting Brein” has won a landmark case against usenet provider Lawyers for Stichting Brein successfully argued that even though is only providing access to material uploaded elsewhere, because it is available on their servers they are responsible for policing it. As a result, has to come up with a way to remove or block access to all copyrighted content or face a fine of up to 50,000 euros per day.

This is potentially quite a worrying precedent for net neutrality. Not only does it potentially spell doom of usenet service providers all over Europe, but depending on how it is interpreted it could erode protection such as the UK “Mere Conduit” defence where ISP’s have been able to successfully argue that they cannot be held liable for civil or criminal infringements cause by users of their bandwidth as all they are is a “bit pipe” to the internet and that it is in fact the user who must be held liable.

Steve Jobs dies from cancer aged 56

The name “Steve Jobs” evokes a passionate response from many people, myself included. No matter what your feelings are however, there is little doubt that the world has lost a true visionary.

Steve Jobs shaped Apple as we know it today and under his guidance they created some of the most iconic technology products of our era. Steve Jobs was also responsible for business plan innovation that turned industries like the mobile phone industry completely on it’s head.

RIP Steve Jobs, no matter what I thought of some of your ideas, you were an icon that changed the world around you.

Smartphone Botnet’s Arrive.

For some time now we have been predicting that the next evolution in smartphone malware will be for this type of malware to move closer to parity with traditional desktop malware. This has now been confirmed by Trend Micro who have found a varient of Malware – ANDROIDOS_ANDROIDSERVERBOT.A apparently originating from China that masquerades as an e-book reader app. Once on an infected device this malware uses an internet Blog site as its Command and Control server, joining infected devices into an army of zombie smartphones:

Permissions requested by ANDROIDOS_ANSERVERBOT.A
Permissions requested by ANDROIDOS_ANSERVERBOT.A

“From our analysis, we found that this malware has two hardcoded C&C servers to which it connects in order to receive commands and to deliver payloads. The first server is just like the usual remote site to which the malware posts information to and gets commands from. The second C&C server, however, caught our attention more. This is a blog site with encrypted content, which based on our research, is the first time Android malware implemented this kind of technique to communicate.”

Image showing how ANDROIDOS_ANDROIDSERVERBOT.A uses tts C&C

In an additional element of parity, this Malware also has the capability to disable on device security software, terminating the following chinese security apps:


Smartphones are full computing platforms. This latest threat evolution was entirely predictable yet in my view very little is being done at the consumer end or even at the telco end to protect against the impact this sort of infection could represent.

Just imagine an army of millions of infected phones all calling premium rate numbers or sending out spam emails….