Friday, November 13, 2009

Hacking thru the radar Part II

"In the famous "Suter" series of electronic attach experiments as Nellis AFB Nev. a data stream was fired into an integrated air defense network's antenna's by an EC-130 Compass Call electronic attack aircraft. " So saith Aviation Week.
Cool. Couple of years ago Aviation Week reported that the Israeli's used this technique in the air strike on the Syrian nuclear reactor.
Couple of things to wonder at. How do radio frequency data streams get inside the "integrated air defense network"? The network antennas are radar antennas which are mostly analog, mixed with Identification Friend or Foe (IFF) system. Transmitting analog signals can confuse the radar, but the process is called jamming and has been around since WWII. Sending phony IFF digital signals is called spoofing, and has been around just about as long. Neither process would be called "firing a data stream" by any one in USAF.
"Firing a data stream into network antenna's" implies the airborne attackers are getting into the digital data links between the radar sites and the fighter/missile direction centers and inserting false targets, or erasing real targets, or doing other kinds of mischief. It's a neat trick, but the counter measure is simple, use land lines or optical fiber for the data links. Don't use radio data links. No way can radio frequency energy emitted by aircraft get into plain old telephone wires or optical fibers.
I dare say some air defense systems use radio data links 'cause you just have to aim the antennas and switch on the power and your data is linking, out for maybe 50 miles. Might take a week to string wire or fiber that far. But was I in charge, I'd order the boys out to string the wire or fiber the day I arrived in theater, and after a week, I would have secure data links. And I would no longer be transmitting "here I am, come bomb me" over the air. For a radar site the extra emissions probably don't matter, but a fighter/missile direction center, fighter base or missile site could maintain radio silence and become harder to find.


Evan said...

Well, 30 or 40 years after then when/if next world war happens I'm guessing we'll see lots of history books saying 'Gee, how could they be so foolish to use unsecured cables?'

It'll be like how the French had no strategic reserves when the Nazis invaded, and how the lack of planning for a lowlands invasion by the Huns in WW1 almost resulted in the demise of the French rather quickly with the lackluster BEF led by John French anchoring (using the term loosely) that part of the line.

Dstarr said...

Don't need to wait for WWIII. This could be an issue for an air strike against Iranian nuclear sites next month. Or the next mid east blowup.
Aviation Week thinks this technology is key to penetration of modern air defenses.
I'm skeptical. I think you penetrate air defenses by flying very low so your skin paint is lost in the ground clutter.
I can remember USAF Air Defense Command in the 1960's being unable to paint a T-33 on radar until he came up to 10,000 feet. Fifty years later the radar is better, but I'll bet if you got down to 250 feet altitude the radar still wouldn't see you.
If the radar doesn't see you, the fighters won't find you.