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Upgrade or Risk to National Security?

by Matthew Payton
March 18, 2017

With each year modern computing technologies become further engrained into our society. These advances have provided extensive functionality which in some instances is far beyond what analog based systems are capable of offering. Don’t write off analog just yet though, there are a number of circumstances where analog processing has clear advantages over digital alternatives. For example analog signal processing can be done in real time while consuming less bandwidth. Moreover analog is better suited for high frequency applications where time for either conversion (A / D) or computations are limited. Furthermore there’s no current counterpart to the issue of limit cycles which plague Digital IIR.

The US Air Force’s Updated E-3G Radar planes are example of the plethora of tactics digital technologies can provide, thus giving our armed services the edge in combat. A perfect example of this are the new standard of modern open architecture computers which allowing systems to be updated on the fly. However, these technologies also open up a barrage of new security concerns which make digital security trends that much more important. As the E-3G Block 40/45 Red Hat based flight computer, and Windows operator workstations demonstrated through their failure of the critical Cooperative Vulnerability and Penetration Assessment.

In the modern world these types of threats are now not are not only a possibility, they’re an inevitability, even to the point of affecting digital safety systems at nuclear power plants as Stuxnet demonstrated in 2010. Ralph Langer, one of the foremost experts on critical infrastructure security suggests reintroducing analog components into the control process chain as a backstop for cyber assault. In the humble opinion of this student, creating a hedge through the utilization of older technologies until digital systems can be reinforced is indeed a responsible course of action, and should be considered by both our military and homeland security.


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Comments (7)

So many cmments with so little time.

I've done some work for an organization who manufactures critical systems. During the first use of said system all of the control systems went blank so once the process was initiated no one could see for fact hat was taking place. The root cause was a virus on an HP network connected printer.

This very same company would have people outside their business reading the computer (analog) displays and listening to all phone calls with special antennas.once fiber was installed the calls could no longer be heard.

My point, analog is not always better. Understanding security is a must. The systems using Windows or any OS for that matter can be compromised.

Most of the problems stem from lacsidasical approaches to securing systems.

BTW a harddrive manufacturer years ago installed a program on the drive that made it easy for a particular country to access your data... 500,000 drives were shipped to the us and once discovered were recalled.

- Mike | 3/19/17 8:05 AM

Ms. Greendale: Apologies for the belated reply, the short answer is no. Due to the nature of how modern systems such as your MacBook are designed such a solution wouldn't be feasible, nor would it address the types of threats encountered when utilizing internet related resources on said device where your operating system is concerned. Moreover it's worth mentioning analog technologies come with their own set of inherent concerns, however, employing analog control systems to create barriers against digital threats towards critical infrastructure such as the electrical grid or telecommunication system is promising.

- Matthew Payton | 3/18/17 8:19 PM

Matt: so are you saying that you can add analog components to my MAC Probook and make it more secure?

- Mary Greendale | 3/18/17 3:29 PM

The simplicity with which Stuxnet was pulled off boggles the mind. An entire nuclear program sabotaged without ever being "connected to the grid". Matt's advice is right-on

- Paul Saulnier | 3/18/17 3:25 PM

The intent of the piece is to plant the seed of deliberation at the local level. These types of discussions concern everyone, and the impact of digital security trends affect our communities.

- Matthew Payton | 3/18/17 1:48 PM

You fail to see the relevance of this article to the people of Holliston? Do you think that when these systems are hacked it won't affect the people of Holliston and every other town, city and country in our great United States? It may even be farther reaching. The systems the writer of this article is referring to control our transportation, nuclear sites, military sites and more which are vital for not only our basic services but for our national security.

I think its high time people stop sticking their heads in the sand assuming that we live in a bubble and start making themselves aware of the bigger picture. Ignorance is bliss for certain, but it is not what is going to keep us and our loved ones safe. Take a look at world news and hope that you are seeing the facts accurately reported. Once you are aware of some of the current events happening in our world you will then clearly understand why this article is so very relevant to the people of Holliston and elsewhere.

- Karen Bell | 3/18/17 12:37 PM

??? I fail to see a relevance to the people of Holliston.

- Dick DesMarais | 3/18/17 8:41 AM



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