Sunday Nerding: Getting To The Moon

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This month marks the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 mission – the first moon landing, and that one small step for mankind that changed the world forever.

Apollo 8 Crew
Jim Lovell, William Anders, and Frank Borman.

In 1961, President John F Kennedy had set his his nation the goal of “landing a man on the moon, and returning him safely to the earth“.

A while back I wrote about the amazing – (and ongoing) – restoration of an Apollo Guidance Computer – one of the very first digital computers, developed at MIT for NASA, which was crucial to achieving the goal.

While everyone remembers Apollo 11 – (and to a lesser extent Apollo 13, due to the problems it struck) – very little is thought about with respect to Apollo 8 – the mission where NASA figured out how to do two of the four main important tasks of a successful moon landing – getting there and getting back.

The following video discusses the pivotal role Apollo 8 played in making Apollo 11, and all of the subsequent moon landings possible.


Further Reading:

Russian GNSS Spoofing

Posted Posted in Technology

A recently released report from C4ADS following a year of research, appears to confirm the hacking and/or spoofing of GNSS transmissions by Russia’s Federal Protective Service (FSO).

https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:CYGNSS_concept_art.jpeg

GNSS is the collective term for “global navigation satellite systems“, of which the common GPS system is one. Russia and China are known to operate their own GNSS systems, alongside the GPS system developed by the US military.

The activities of the FSO – (in which it is apparent that false signals are deliberately broadcast to confuse GPS receivers, such as those you might have in your car, or those found in commercial ships or commercial aircraft) – are reputedly designed to keep attack drones away from Russian president, Vladimir Putin.

While this might seem like a not unreasonable use of such techniques, the report presents evidence that they are also using these techniques in Syria, possibly to confuse enemy military systems. There is of course a long running military conflict in the region.

It is therefore logical to assume that such techniques can and have been used all over the world at some time – past, present and future.

These techniques could be used to disrupt navigation in all sorts of transportation systems and infrastructures.

Russia shot down a Korean Air passenger jet in 1983 after an issue with the configuration of the navigation system on that Boeing 747. While this was found to be the fault of the pilots at the time, faulty navigation data could be used to initiate similar incidents, but with plausible deniability.

Quoting the report’s Executive Summary:

In this report, we present findings from a year-long investigation ending in November 2018 on an emerging subset of EW activity: the ability to mimic, or “spoof,” legitimate GNSS signals in order to manipulate PNT data. Using publicly available data and commercial technologies, we detect and analyze patterns of GNSS spoofing in the Russian Federation, Crimea, and Syria that demonstrate the Russian Federation is growing a comparative advantage in the targeted use and development of GNSS spoofing capabilities to achieve tactical and strategic objectives at home and abroad. We profile different use cases of current Russian state activity to trace the activity back to basing locations and systems in use.

The full report can be found here.

DARPA’s Open Source eVoting Initiative

Posted Posted in Technology

I’ve never been a fan of the concept of electronic voting. I’m still not a fan of electronic voting.

For the most part the idea that I might cast my vote, walk away from the machine that contains my vote, and not know what happens with that machine afterwards scares me.

How do I know my vote eventually gets counted?

It could be argued that a paper ballot in a ballot box might “go missing” too. Most systems have certain kinds of vulnerabilities, whether they be electronic or otherwise.

But can eVoting be made reliable and verifiable?

With this initiative from DARPA, I’ve moved into the “maybe” column. I’m not convinced, but this is the best concept I’ve heard to date.

It’s worth discussing, and we do need to understand that DARPA is part of the US Department of Defence. How much can we trust that?

As an open source initiative, their work would be able to be closely scrutinized by any interested party. This perhaps means the eventual product they develop can be trusted.

It contains a lot of verification mechanisms to instill confidence in it.

Here is their plan as discussed on the most recent episode of Security Now!


References

Fake News: Media Literacy for Our Kids?

Posted Posted in Musings

In this age of “fake news” and “native ads”, people are not critical enough about the information presented to them. They end up believing what they want to believe.

How do we tackle this? How do we teach our children to recognise this phenomenon? How do we give them the tools to understand and review information for themselves, lest “fake news” becomes a scourge for all time?

In a recent episode of This Week in Tech, contributor Mikah Sargent spoke of how he undertook a ‘media literacy’ course whilst in college.

I could help but thinking how good an idea this was.

Teaching our children how to defend themselves against vested interests controlling our media will be an important democratic tool in the future.

What do you think?

When Journalists Were Journalists

Posted Posted in Musings

There are many fine examples of journalism in the world today, but we unfortunately live in an age where “fake news” and the selective acceptance or non-acceptance of “facts” is prevalent.

As such, for consumers of news, understanding what is really happening in the world today can be confusing.

Not to mention, misleading.

The downing by Soviet fighter jets of Korean Air Lines Flight 007 in 1983 was a tragic, yet fascinating story of tragedy and international politics, spanning more than a decade.

Here is a fabulous piece presenting an insight into how the beginning of this story was covered.  This is reflective of just the San Francisco area at the time – at a time when journalists really were journalists.