Thursday, March 03, 2005

Interesting, and rather worrying too (Fun with Electronic Warfare)

Via Wampum, this article regarding an unusual application of WiFi networking - setting off claymores! The US Army in Iraq is apparently using the well-loved 802.11 standard that makes grand people's laptops connect to the net in airports to control command-detonated mines used for perimeter defence. Great. The weapon concerned is not technically a land mine in the legal sense, as it's fired on command rather than being hidden for the unwary to tread on. Hence it's still permitted. They are often used either (as here) to cover vulnerable parts of a defensive position, or aggressively to lay an ambush (like the Iraqi insurgents do with their roadside bombs).

The traditional sort, though, are fired by a squaddy hiding in a ditch pulling a string (sometimes literally), which limits where they can be placed. Using a radio link means they can be placed pretty much anywhere, although the limiting factor is that the controller must be able to see the proposed kill-zone. Like any radio device, it means squawking out a signal into the world. And this is where the problems start. The fact they are using good old Wifi for this means, of course, that anyone with savvy and suitable gear can pick up the signal; and, of course, if you can identify it you can jam it, interfere with it, direction-find it or even transmit it yourself. Given a Wi-Fi laptop, then, the mines could be swept by remote control without danger to the sweeper by spoofing the signal - a dramatic version of the "evil twin" wifi exploit in which an identical access point is set up near another in order to hack computers connected to it.

The stated advantages of this would then be turned on their heads; the spoofer could trigger any combination of them, presumably waiting for the best moment. Yet another one to file under Really Bad Ideas.

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