Cyber Attacks Against Infrastructure – The New Battlefield

There isn’t a lot of new information here (they talk about attacks going back to Stuxnet and WannaCry), but the fact that it is Business Insider, and not a technical journal I take as a step in the right direction. Cyber-attacks are the newest frontier of war, and can strike harder than a natural disaster. Here’s why the US could struggle to cope if it got hit..

Nowadays nations have the ability to cause war-like damage to their enemy’s vital infrastructure without launching a military strike, helped along by both new offensive technology and the inexorable drive to connect more and more systems to the internet.

So why are people putting this stuff on the internet? Because it’s cool, or something. No critical infrastructure should be available via the public internet. It should probably not be accessible via a corporate intranet. What part of “critical infrastructure and hackers don’t mix” are the geniuses confused about?


„Zo” – The only woman member of Poland’s “Silent Unseen”

The Cichociemni (Silent Unseen) was a group from the Polish Army in Exile (or the Polish Home Army) that was trained in Britain and parachuted into Poland during WWII. Someday I will, perhaps, get to a posting on their exploits, but today we remember Elżbieta Zawacka, better known by her nom de guerre, „Zo.”

Born 19 March 1909 in what is today, Toruń, Poland. She was promoted to Brigadier General of the Polish Army in 2006 by President Lech Kaczyński, in honor of the work she did during the war.

After the 1939 invasion of Poland by Nazi Germany, „Zo” joined Związek Walki Zbrojnej, an underground army formed as a result of that invasion.

In late 1940 she was moved to Warsaw and began her courier trips. She was also a deputy of Zagroda — the Department of Foreign Communication of the Home Army. In February 1943 she traveled across Germany, France and Spain to Gibraltar, where she was transported by air to London.

In the UK, Elżbieta Zawacka joined the Home Army being trained by the Special Operations Executive (SOE). She was parachuted into Poland and took part in the Warsaw uprising.

After the war she briefly was a member of an anti-communist organization, but quit and started teaching. In 1951 she was arrested by the Urząd Bezpieczeństwa (Security Service of the Ministry of Internal Affairs), and served about 5 years of a 10 year sentence.

She then got a Ph.D. from Gdańsk University, and taught at another university. She supported Solidarność in the 1980s. She passed away 10 January 2009.

If you aren’t old enough to remember Solidarność (Solidarity), and the 1980 strikes at the Gdańsk Shipyard (then the Lenin Shipyard) you should brush up on some history. While I’m sure that professional historians may disagree with me, I think it marks the beginning of the end for The Warsaw Pact, and The Soviet Union. August of 1980 was Gdańsk, and in November 1989 the Berlin Wall came down, and Germany was reunified. (Though reunification was in 1990, since these things take time.) But the Cold War is a story for another day.

The Night Witches – The WWII, All-female Bomber Regiment

More WWII History? Sure. Night Witches: The Female Fighter Pilots of World War II. The Germans came to call them Nachthexen – Night Witches. Why? Keep reading.

Officially, they were the 588th Night Bomber Regiment, though that designation changed over time as they accumulated honors. It was the only regiment that remained all female during the war. (Or at anytime since.) Pilots, navigators, mechanics, the CO… They were ALL women.

The Atlantic calls them fighter pilots, but it is hard to characterize the planes they flew as “fighter planes” by WWII standards. They flew wood and canvas biplanes originally designed for training, and then pressed into service for crop dusting. Low and slow doesn’t begin to cover it. The image at the right is of a Polikarpov Po-2, the plane used by the regiment. (Click to enlarge.)

Its members, who ranged in age from 17 to 26, flew primarily at night, making do with planes that were—per their plywood-and-canvas construction—generally reserved for training and crop-dusting. They often operated in stealth mode, idling their engines as they neared their targets and then gliding their way to their bomb release points. As a result, their planes made little more than soft “whooshing” noises as they flew by.

Those noises reminded the Germans, apparently, of the sound of a witch’s broomstick. So the Nazis began calling the female fighter pilots Nachthexen: “night witches.” They were loathed. And they were feared. Any German pilot who downed a “witch” was automatically awarded an Iron Cross.

The old biplanes had a maximum speed that was slower than the stall speed of most of the German planes of the day. This made them fairly difficult to shoot down in a dog fight. Difficult, but not impossible.

And tracer fire was especially a problem. Wood and painted canvas don’t react well to incendiary fire. They were flying very slow by the standards of the day, and even if their planes didn’t make a lot of noise, the Germans did learn to identify the noise they did make.

As you can imagine, they didn’t get a lot of respect at the beginning of their service. Aside from the substandard planes, they had hand-me-down uniforms, and senior officers who were upset at being sent a bunch of “girlies.” That changed as they proved that women really can fly planes. They were one of the first aviation regiments to be elevated to “guard status.”

They dropped 3,000 tons of bombs on the Germans over the course of the war. They also dropped food and ammunition to Soviet troops.

While I was trying to find a decent video on this subject, I ran across this one from NBC. They managed to get part of an interview with one of the last survivors of the regiment, from the Russian Archives. (I can’t embed it here, so just a link.) It isn’t as entertaining as the one below, but it is good, and it isn’t an hour long. (It’s a bit over 5 minutes.) And it is in English.

This video from “We are the Mighty” is pretty good – it has a lot of info – even if it is a bit over the top. (They get points for a Monty Python reference.)

There is an all-female Black Sabbath tribute band named Nightwitches, (I can’t recommend them) and there is also a Sabaton song (Heavy Metal) that is a tribute to the Soviet regiment. I also can’t recommend it. YMMV

If you have the stamina for English subtitles on a Russian film, there is a 2008 film by Gunilla Bresky (available on YouTube in several parts) that includes quite few interviews with the Natten Haxor (Night Witches in Russian) who were still alive at the time. As well as letters they sent, and film from the time. While it won’t give Ken Burns a run for his money, it isn’t bad, even if it is in fairly low resolution. There is supposed to be a feature film from the 1980s, but I haven’t had time to look that up just yet. There is also a Russian series The Night Swallows, but with the English subtitles, and the soap-opera nature of the show, I haven’t been able to watch much of it.

WaPo Apparently Doesn’t Remember Who Was President in 2011

While they mention the NATO-assisted overthrow of Qaddafi, there is no mention of whose idea it was. In Libya, fears of full-blown civil war as fighting nears capital Tripoli.

A battle for control of Tripoli would mark the most significant escalation of violence in oil- and gas-rich Libya since the toppling of Libyan dictator Moammar Gaddafi in 2011 following a populist rebellion backed by NATO bombing

But Foreign Affairs (at least in 2015) wasn’t so forgetful.

On March 17, 2011, the UN Security Council passed Resolution 1973, spearheaded by the administration of U.S. President Barack Obama, authorizing military intervention in Libya. The goal, Obama explained, was to save the lives of peaceful, pro-democracy protesters who found themselves the target of a crackdown by Libyan dictator Muammar al-Qaddafi.

It didn’t work out that way.

In retrospect, Obama’s intervention in Libya was an abject failure, judged even by its own standards. Libya has not only failed to evolve into a democracy; it has devolved into a failed state. Violent deaths and other human rights abuses have increased severalfold. Rather than helping the United States combat terrorism, as Qaddafi did during his last decade in power, Libya now serves as a safe haven for militias affiliated with both al Qaeda and the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS).

Hat tip to Pirate’s Cove, who also links to the WaPo opinion pages where they seem to be lobbying for more intervention on the part of the US.

Let’s go to the NY Times opinion pages, where they are suddenly cool with American intervention. If they can bash Trump at the same time

Roza Georgiyevna Shanina (Ро́за Гео́ргиевна Ша́нина) – WWII Sniper

I sort of started this last year (well, really at the end of 2017) with the bio of Lyudmila Pavlichenko, the deadliest woman sniper in history. But she wasn’t the only woman sniper that the Soviets recruited during WWII.

Roza ShaninaRoza Shanina joined the Soviet Army in 1943, after her brother was killed by the invading German army in 1941. (Part of that time was that the Soviets were not accepting women into the military at the start of the war, and then she had to convince the local military commissariat.)

The image is of Sniper Roza Shanina, holding a 1891/30 Mosin–Nagant with the 3.5x PU scope. 1944. As always, click the image for a larger view.

In 1944 a Canadian paper described Shanina as “the unseen terror of East Prussia.”

The History Collection describes her career as follows.

She got her wish and joined the 184th Rifle Division on April 2, 1944 and got her first kill three days later. By May 1944, she had 17 confirmed kills.

She died in 1945 at the age of 20, having been disemboweled by an artillery shell. Her confirmed kills stands at 59.

On a related subject see the photo of the Belorussian Front Sniper squad, as provided by Rejected Princesses. (Well behaved women rarely make history.)

775 confirmed kills represented in this one picture. Female snipers of the 3rd Shock Army, 1st Belorussian Front, WW2. Not pictured: Lyudmila Pavlichenko, who would have boosted the count to 1083 just by standing there.

Rejected Princesses doesn’t have the listing of people in that photo, but the names are known. You can find the info at Rare Historical Photos.

The snipers in the picture:
First row – Guard Staff Sergeant, VN Stepanova: 20 kills, Guard Sgt JP Belousova: 80 kills, Guard Sgt AE Vinogradova: 83 kills.
Second row – Guard Lieutenant EK Zhibovskaya: 24 kills, Guard Sgt KF Marinkin: 79 kills, Guard Sgt OS Marenkina: 70 kills.
Third row – Guard Lieutenant NP Belobrova: 70 kills, Lieutenant N. Lobkovsky: 89 kills, Guard Lieutenant VI Artamonova: 89 kills, Guard Staff Sergeant MG Zubchenko: 83 kills.
Forth row – Guard Sergeant, NP Obukhova: 64 kills, Guard Sergeant, AR Belyakova 24 kills.

So why Roza Shanina and not these others? Because she kept a diary during the war, and an edited version of that diary was published in the magazine Yunost in 1965. Largely as a result of that she was awarded the Order of Glory 1st Class by the Supreme Soviet in 1985.

Rejected Princesses also has a list of notable women in combat dating to the 16th Century BCE.

UPDATE: A short (6 minutes) video on Roza Shanina, with a few more details about her career.

The .gov Starts to Address Electromagnetic Pulse (EMP) Attacks

I’m sure the Left will decide that this is a disaster, or something. Finally, a presidential EMP order that may save American lives.

The Commission to Assess the Threat from Electromagnetic Pulse (EMP) Attack, also known as the Congressional EMP Commission, has warned for nearly 20 years that a nuclear EMP attack, or natural EMP from a solar superstorm, could destroy our electronic civilization and kill millions.

For 20 years (or longer) politicians on both sides of the aisle have been ignoring the possibility of an EMP attack.

Such an attack would give countries that have only a small number of nuclear weapons the ability to cause widespread, long-lasting damage to critical national infrastructures, to the United States itself as a viable country, and to the survival of a majority of its population.”

I don’t believe that anything real will come of it. Protecting our infrastructure from EMP is possible but expensive, which is why no one wants to address it. Really, really expensive. Every car, every computer, cellphone, refrigerators, … the list of things that will be destroyed by an EMP is long.

Starting with. No running water. (Water pumps require electricity.) Which means no sanitation, because I doubt that 4% of the population knows what to do in primitive situations, and in cities it is probably even lower. No refrigeration. (Do you even have any canned foods on your kitchen shelves?) Meat and dairy will last a few days at most. No credit card or Apple/Android pay options. (Do you have any cash on hand?) No transportation means no food delivery to your local market. (How much food do you suppose they have on hand?) Pharmaceutical production stops. (Do you know how people died from what we consider today, to be minor injuries?) I’m sure you can play along at home.

Hollywood elites, in their ever-present desire to misinform the public, have decided that an EMP that kills cellphones isn’t too cinematic, so they say that “things will be down for 10 minutes, and then work again.” Too bad this isn’t how the universe works. Every piece of consumer electronics in range of an EMP will be turned into a paperweight or a boat anchor (depending on how big it is). Most of the electrical grid will also fail, until large components of that grid can be replaced. It won’t be good. So why are we doing NOTHING about it?

Pakistan and India Go From Making Faces to Open Hostilities

This will not end well. Pakistan captures Indian pilot after shooting down aircraft, escalating hostilities.

Of course they were actually shooting at each other before, but somehow shooting down jets seems to move things to next level.

Pakistan said it shot down two Indian military aircraft over its territory Wednesday and launched strikes in Indian-controlled Kashmir, while India claimed it shot down a Pakistani fighter jet in the “aerial encounter.”

An especially volatile aspect of the confrontation was Pakistan’s capture of an Indian fighter pilot.

And yes, both India and Pakistan are nuclear powers.