by Nicholas West
February 13, 2012
It's bad enough that drones have been welcomed by Congress into American
skies, as well as already being used around the planet to conduct
surveillance and bomb select countries from remote locations.
The latest proposed addition to the drone spy program is even creepier:
disposable computers with software programs funded by
DARPA to be dropped as
Now, not only will drones surveil and hack from above, but they will drop a
payload to interface with hidden computers on the ground, completely
integrating a full-spectrum data transmission and control grid.
The name of the project, as well as its announcement at a hacker convention
ShmooCon, had this non-techie convinced that it had to be satire or a
hoax, but the project has also been noted by Forbes and Wired, which only
serves to illustrate how far off into our dystopian technocratic police
state we have wandered. It seems that we are being acclimated to how funny
and cool our futuristic spy toys have become.
This fun has culminated in the
planned dropping of F-BOMBS (Falling or Ballistically-launched Object that
Makes Backdoors) to combat "Bad Men With Guns."
The F-BOMB introduces the idea of disposable surveillance as a guard against
forensic evaluation and the ability to track the source of the drop.
Creator, Brendan O'Connor, has received DARPA funding to implement a
software package into his nearly non-traceable surveillance hardware as
cheaply as possible with easy-to-obtain components.
Back in August, another DIY project was introduced as the
Surveillance Platform (WASP - since renamed Project Vespid).
This modified military
drone was put together from parts legally obtained on the Internet by two
hackers (intelligence agency consultants, actually) Rich Perkins and
Mike Tassey, who presented their work at a Black Hat conference.
The release was
supported by a breathless Wolf Blitzer who seized upon the announcement to
illustrate the new threat of being hacked from above. Brendan O'Connor has
reduced the DIY cost of similar capabilities to no more than a few hundred
dollars with his F-BOMB project.
O'Connor summarizes the value and capabilities of his new Sacrificial
Computing for Land and Sky concept in the video that follows, highlighting
that his surveillance tool can be planted manually, or dropped from
specialized drone aircraft:
Similar to the creators of the home-made WASP hacking drone, O'Connor states
that he is merely exposing the vulnerabilities of networks and their users.
Despite its name, O’Connor says the F-BOMB is designed to be a platform for
all sorts of applications on its Linux operating system. Outfit it with
temperature or humidity sensors, for instance, and it can be used for
meteorological research or other innocent data-collecting.
But install some Wifi-cracking software or add a $15 GPS module, and it can snoop on data
networks or track a target’s location, O’Connor adds.
As is often the case
with these kinds of hacker projects, he says the devices are only intended
for penetration testing - finding security flaws in clients’ networks in order
to fix them - and wouldn’t comment on what DARPA might do with the technology.
However, this rings false (or profoundly naive), as O'Connor also has
received his funding from the very organization that is at the forefront of
using taxpayer money to eradicate privacy around the world, including that
of American citizens.
As a result, the government already can:
Hack your personal information (source)
Monitor your private phone calls (source)
Read your private e-mails (source)
Spoof cell phone towers (source)
Break down firewalls (source)
Jam cellular frequencies causing denial of
Disrupt and manipulate Wi-Fi signals (source)
Track your every move (source)
Although O'Connor said that he wouldn't comment
on what DARPA might do with the technology, his own business website Malice
Afterthought indicates a solid working relationship with military
Our principal, Brendan O'Connor, has taught at the US military's cybersecurity school as well as working for both VeriSign and Sun
Microsystems in their security divisions; he has also worked for DARPA and
startups as a combination engineer, dreamer, and mad scientist capable of
making even the most challenging tasks into reality.
We should all know by now that we don't have to be technology experts to
envision some rather dark applications that are no longer security
challenges, but are part of an agenda to fundamentally alter our reality and
perceived social contract within a supposedly free society.
That reality has
little to do with protecting citizens' data and privacy, and everything to
do with covering the tracks of government's ubiquitous intrusion into our
private lives, as well as ramping-up their violation of the Constitution by
presuming guilt over innocence, and subjecting citizens to their mad science
and mad dreams.