The U.S. military is known for using equipment for decades, which for the most part makes sense as weapons tend to be robustly built, but surprisingly the U.S. Air Force is just pulling from service a 40-year-old computer product.

The Air Force announced earlier this week it would stop using 8-inch floppy disks. These have been used as part of the Air Force’s primary communications system used to send messages to American nuclear forces around the world. The disks were invented in the early 1970s and put into use by the Air Force in the 1980s as part of the Strategic Automated Command and Control System.

The news site C4isrnet quoted an Air Force spokesman that even though the system was horribly out of date from a technical standpoint, it was almost bulletproof from a cybersecurity perspective.

“I joke with people and say it’s the Air Force’s oldest IT system. But it’s the age that provides that security,” Col. Jason Rossi, commander of the Air Force’s 595th Strategic Communications Squadron told C4isrnet. “You can’t hack something that doesn’t have an IP address. It’s a very unique system — it is old and it is very good.”

The technology’s age finally doomed it as the younger generation of military IT support staffers simply did not have the knowledge to maintain the system. The disks are being replaced by a solid state storage system.

Perhaps airplanes and machine guns are easier to keep functioning.

The B-52 Stratofortress bomber entered service with the U.S. Air Force in 1955 with the version still in service first taking flight in 1961 and which is expected to continue to remain operating for several more decades. Even older is the Browning M2 .50 cal. machine gun which entered service in 1923 and is still widely used by all the armed services.


The Army cyber protection teams need simple tools with better training capabilities, the teams’ project manager told Fifth Domain.

In an interview Oct. 15 at the 2019 Association of the United States Army conference, Col. Chad Harris, project manager for Defensive Cyber Operations at the Army Program Executive Office Enterprise Information Systems, shared what his teams are looking for in the new tools that it adds.

“This goes back to tools that are intuitive [and] are easy to use and easy to train on,” said Harris.

Harris said he “continuously” talks to industry about these needs.

“When you give us a tool, make sure you’re looking at is this thing user friendly,” Harris said. “Does it have automation involved and does it make it easy for that soldier to pick it up and learn it in a short period of time? Does it have a training package that goes along with it that allows us to quickly deploy the tool?”


Part of the need for easy-to-use tools stems from the cyber workforce shortage, he added — a problem throughout the private and public sector that is also affecting the work of the cyber protection teams.

“Their time is valuable,” Harris said. “So the training has got to be targeted. They’ve got to be able to train quickly and they’ve got to be able to train wherever they need to train at.”

He also said that new tools need to come with a training package. Harris said that the training needs to be “tailorable” and “specific” to the needs of each individual — not require 40 hours per week in the classroom.

“We’ve got to be able to train virtually; we’ve got to be able to train live,” Harris said. “And we’ve got to have those training sessions off hours. And we’ve also got to have that training available or that help available for them 24/7, 365 [days a year].”


If you could travel back in time 3.5 billion years, what would Mars look like? The picture is evolving among scientists working with NASA's Curiosity rover.

Imagine ponds dotting the floor of Gale Crater, the 100-mile-wide (150-kilometer-wide) ancient basin that Curiosity is exploring. Streams might have laced the crater's walls, running toward its base. Watch history in fast forward, and you'd see these waterways overflow then dry up, a cycle that probably repeated itself numerous times over millions of years.

That is the landscape described by Curiosity scientists in a Nature Geoscience paper published today. The authors interpret rocks enriched in mineral salts discovered by the rover as evidence of shallow briny ponds that went through episodes of overflow and drying. The deposits serve as a watermark created by climate fluctuations as the Martian environment transitioned from a wetter one to the freezing desert it is today.

Scientists would like to understand how long this transition took and when exactly it occurred. This latest clue may be a sign of findings to come as Curiosity heads toward a region called the "sulfate-bearing unit," which is expected to have formed in an even drier environment. It represents a stark difference from lower down the mountain, where Curiosity discovered evidence of persistent freshwater lakes.

Gale Crater is the ancient remnant of a massive impact. Sediment carried by water and wind eventually filled in the crater floor, layer by layer. After the sediment hardened, wind carved the layered rock into the towering Mount Sharp, which Curiosity is climbing today. Now exposed on the mountain's slopes, each layer reveals a different era of Martian history and holds clues about the prevailing environment at the time.


More than 350 ethical hackers got together in cities across Australia on Friday for a hackathon in which they worked to “cyber trace a missing face”, in the first-ever standalone capture-the-flag (CtF) event devoted to finding missing persons.

Similar CtFs have been held before, alongside conferences such as DEF CON and B-Sides, but this was the first such event focused entirely around a missing persons hackathon.

Organizers called the results “astounding,” ABC News reports.

During the six hours the competing teams hammered away at the task of searching for clues that could potentially solve 12 of the country’s most frustrating cold cases. 100 leads were generated every 10 minutes.

The National Missing Persons Hackathon was run by the AustCyber Canberra Innovation Node, which partnered with the Australian Federal Police, the National Missing Persons Coordination Centre and Trace Labs: a nonprofit with a mission of crowdsourcing open-source intelligence (OSINT) and training people on OSINT tradecraft.

OSINT is data collected from publicly available sources. That includes Google searches, for example. The missing persons hackathon is the sunny side of that coin. Last week, we saw a much darker side to OSINT when we heard about a Japanese pop star who was attacked by a stalker who zoomed in on the reflections in her eyes from selfies, then searched for matching images on Google Maps to find out where she lives.