"Son of Stuxnet", the Rules of War, and the New Cyber Arms Race

October 19, 2011


A product of the defence procurement process at DSEi, London, September 16 2011

There's an interesting post on Foreign Policy magazine's website today, about Duqu, an apparent derivative of Stuxnet, that was discovered last week. According to this report, by Nick Hopkins in the Guardian, it appears to be in an information-gathering phase - something that Stuxnet did before it apparently succeeded in its aim of bringing a halt to operations at a nuclear lab in Iran. In his piece, Blake Hounshell, FP's managing editor, asks whether another major cyber attack on part of a nation's computer-dependent infrastructure may be in the offing, and whether the original virus-weapon may now be in the hands of criminals or terrorists. These are valid and worrying questions; but they may not be the most urgent ones to be asking. ... more »

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posted: 19/10/2011 | comments »


Eugene McDaniels, 1935-2011: an Interview

September 6, 2011

I don't know what shocked me more about hearing that Eugene McDaniels had died - that the writer and performer of some of the most indomitable music I've ever heard had passed away at a relatively early age, or that it was only weeks after the fact, and in a listing of a Times obituary on the Record of the Day newsletter, that I heard about it. Even if you think you don't know McDaniels' music, you'll have heard his songs sung by others. Feel Like Making Love was a huge hit for Roberta Flack, and the much-covered Compared to What received perhaps its best reading yet on last year's Roots/John Legend power-match, Wake Up!. But his music also found favour with hip hop producers, who have over the years lifted huge chunks of his astonishing 1972 album of jazz-funk protest songs, Headless Heroes of the Apocalypse, to create new pieces. If you've ever heard the Beastie Boys' Get It Together or puzzled over the interludes that run throughout A Tribe Called Quest's debut album, you've fallen under McDaniels' spell.... more »

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posted: 06/09/2011 | comments »


Safe from the Riots... in Afghanistan

The Media Operations staff at Bastion took in this stray, got her looked after by the vet, and named her Shaw Cat (after the Forward Operating Base of Shawqot). 

I tried to make sure I arrived at Camp Bastion with as little baggage as possible - physical or mental. And I could hardly have predicted my reactions to the place at the best of times: but these are not the best of times. When I left Britain last week, I left behind friends and family concerned for my safety - it's my first time in a war zone, my first time catching a flight where they check to see you've got your bullet-proof jacket along with your passport and visa before they'll let you on the aircraft. But mere days later I find myself sitting in one of the safest and most secure places I've ever visited, worrying about friends and family back home, and watching places I lived in for over 20 years burn.... more »

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posted: 09/08/2011 | comments »


B-2s, Libya, and the Economics of Deterrence


B-2 Spirit of Mississippi in the dock at Whiteman AFB, Missouri, October 2009. Photo: SrA Kenny Holston

After my visit to Whiteman Air Force Base in 2009 I know I'll always feel a more than passing interest in the B-2 fleet. But it was still quite an odd feeling when I realised that the aircraft I spent a couple of hours sitting inside and walking around was one of the three that carried out a mission over Libya last weekend... more »

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posted: 25/03/2011 | comments »


The Defence of the Realm: Inside Britain's Quick Reaction Alert System

A Tornado F3 on a training sortie, RAF Leuchars, September 22, 2010 - photo (c) Lalage Snow

Yesterday's news that RAF fighters were scrambled when a BMI Baby flight from Prague to Manchester lost contact with air traffic controllers seems as good a reason as any to publish a longer version of my recent piece for the Live section of the Mail on Sunday about the UK's air defence system. I've added it to the Features section, or it can be read HERE. ... more »

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posted: 18/01/2011 | comments »


Strategic Defence and Security Review: Some First Impressions

A USAF Reaper undergoing maintenance at Creech AFB, Nevada, March 2009

The final unveiling of the UK's Strategic Defence and Security Review this afternoon has, predictably, raised as many new questions as it has answered. And there are no more areas more sketchy and vague in the 76-page final report than the British government's commitment to - or even understanding of - unmanned military aircraft. ... more »

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posted: 19/10/2010 | comments »


Some Long, Rambling Thoughts on Rock the Bells and the Enduring Power of Hip Hop

My piece in today's Guardian makes mention of the Rock the Bells concert/festival on Governors Island in New York a few weeks ago. I used it as an example of how there's quite clearly a significant number of people willing to pay money to hear classic rap. But I didn't really get much of a chance to talk about the event itself in there, and wasn't able to review it anywhere, so here's a few ruminations and reminiscences on what was a pretty incredible day. WARNING: even by my standards, this one's pretty long, with lots of rambling tangents and asides of dubious relevance. I'm told that online isn't the place for long-form writing, but I can't persuade anyone to actually print this twaddle, so this is where it's going to have to go. If you want to skip to the exclusive interview with John Legend, it's about three-quarters of the way down. Everyone else, pull up a pew, make sure you've got a hot cuppa, and off we go. ... more »

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posted: 08/10/2010 | comments »

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