5 Critical Components of a Sonobuoy

The sonobuoy is device that gathers and transmits information from the world’s oceans. It is a technology that dates to the first world war, when it was developed by the military to track the activities of passing vessels. Today, a wide range of industries utilize the information gathering and transmitting capabilities of the device, from … Continue reading 5 Critical Components of a Sonobuoy

The sonobuoy is device that gathers and transmits information from the world’s oceans. It is a technology that dates to the first world war, when it was developed by the military to track the activities of passing vessels. Today, a wide range of industries utilize the information gathering and transmitting capabilities of the device, from military groups, to oil and gas exploration, to scientific groups. They are used to monitor a number of types of ocean activities. Migration habits of marine life, varying ocean temperatures, changing currents, ship activity, and ocean terrain are only a few of the many things that a sonobuoy can be used to monitor or track. While they can be highly technical devices, they mainly consist of a few critical components.

1. Floatation device

All of them have some form of flotation device. This allows a person to deploy it at sea, where it can float for a period of time and record and transmit data and not have it sink to the bottom of the ocean. The top of it floats and the bottom is submersed, so it can gather information. In many cases, the other components are connected by cables that float freely. While the idea is simple, a piece of equipment attached to a buoy, the finished product can be highly technical.

2. Transmitter

The transmitter is the part of the sonobuoy that transmits the data it collects to another computer for storage and processing. It is an essential component, because many sonobuoys are lost in the violent conditions, making retrieving them difficult or impossible. By transmitting the data, the team processing the information is better able to get the information they need.

3. Sonar equipment

Not all sonobuoys have sonar equipment, but it is a common component. Those that have them are called active. Those that do not are called passive. The device emits a ping and then measures the time it takes for the sound waves to bounce off of something and return. This helps the controller paint a picture of the environment in which the sonobuoy was deployed. The product has helped create detailed maps of previously unknown parts of the ocean.

4. Rugged construction

Sonobuoys are used in one of the most violent and difficult environments on earth… in the middle of oceans. Severe weather, animal encounters, corrosion, salt, and violent movements are all everyday occurrences for the average buoy. They need to withstand the elements long enough to gather the information for which they were deployed. It is important to make sure that the product you purchase has been thoroughly tested for durability and reliability. The quality of the data collected depends on the quality of the tracking equipment.

5. Recording equipment

While most every sonobuoy has a transmitter, some have recording device on them. It is possible to retrieve the information manually, or have the device only transmit the data periodically. Recording equipment is helpful for times when weather or other conditions do not permit the transmission of data. The information can be stored until a time when it can be safely retrieved.


How Can We Trust Them to Protect US?

Trust in Government seems to be at an all-time low in the United States, but why? Perhaps it is the election year where politicians opposing the current leadership call into question their dereliction of duty or embellish how bad things really are – or maybe it is all those hacking events. Our personal data stolen from government computers, our identities and tax return money stolen from the IRS data bases, and our medical records out in cyberspace even as we are forced to give more of our information to our government.

There was a rather telling article in Space War published on May 8, 2015 titled; “Former US government employee tried to sell nuclear secrets” by Staff Writers in Washington DC, which stated; “A former Department of Energy employee has been indicted after attempting to hack agency computers to steal and then sell nuclear secrets to Iran, China and Venezuela, US officials said.”

We’ve sure had a lot of secrets end up in our adversaries’ hands over the last decade. Consider the Wiki Leaks guy, Julian Assange, or the Army Intelligence officer, Bradley Edward Manning, now known as Chelsea Elizabeth Manning, or other smaller blunders and you can see we have a problem; but why?

Is it the lack of responsibility, self-righteousness, the need for acclaim and 15-minutes of fame, or is it something else? Is it about money for information? Is it about freeing information? What is going on today? It doesn’t seem to be getting better, it appears to be getting worse. We’ve had defense contractors sell jet engine information to the Chinese, we’ve had corporate R&D employees of fortune 100 companies sell technical data to foreign competitors and rogue nations. As someone who follows the news on such things I see alarm bells ringing.

Worse, we are not stopping the problem, in fact it is accelerating in numbers and in volume of data and information lost, stolen, and sold to the highest bidder. We’ve lost $100s of billions in proprietary information and we risked the lives of our service men and women, jeopardized our allies and global partners. What the hell is going on, I dare to ask.

No I am hardly the first person to write such scathing articles on this topic, and unfortunately, I won’t be the last, and all we seem to be doing at the government level is throwing more good money after bad to clean up the act and prevent hackers from stealing our data. How can we trust them to protect us, when they can’t even protect their own computer systems? Hmm – think on it.


Developing Online Tools Against Terrorism

It is obvious that the Islamic State (IS) is winning the propaganda war against the West. The numbers of young men quitting their jobs and families in Europe and elsewhere to join IS in Syria is increasing, as is the number of young girls going there to become jihadi brides.

There are several reasons for this. For a start, going to war (when you are young and inexperienced) is an exciting prospect.

But more importantly, IS has managed to master social media better than any other entity (private or governmental) has ever done before.

This mastery is not because they have figured out some marvellous new formula on how to best use Facebook and Twitter. Their message that the Caliphate is an ideal world governed by God’s Law and so free of poverty and inequality is clear and consistent.

This clarity and consistency is wholly missing from Western efforts to counteract IS propaganda, as a recently leaked US State Department memo has conceded.

It seems that the members of the ‘message working group’, consisting of officials from the UAE, Britain and the USA who are spear-heading Western propaganda against IS, are not working well together. The structure of the working group is less than optimal and does not enable diverging views to be resolved.

In addition to failing to send out clear and consistent messages, the West has failed to engage IS in debate on the ideological or religious levels. Perhaps this is because politics are complicating the task of fighting terrorism through social media.

However other (mainly non-governmental) groups are developing online tools against terrorism.

Information cascades

These online tools mainly focus on analysing social media for clues that ‘forecast’ upcoming terrorist events. The tools are supplemented offline with on-the-ground information-gathering and analysis by humans.

For example, CySis, the CyberSocio Intelligent-Systems Lab in Arizona State University, is currently researching ‘information cascades’ and how they can be used to develop online tools to counter terrorism.

An information cascade occurs when people decide to do something because other people are doing it, even if doing it goes against their better judgement.

CySis expects that analysing information cascades will explain why people act in this (supposedly irrational) way, how likely they are to cascade incorrect information or actions, how such behaviour may arise and desist rapidly, and how effective attempts to originate a cascade tend to be under different conditions.

This research is considered crucial because IS has developed expertise in creating memes that resonate with Muslims and indeed with disillusioned non-Muslims.

A meme is an idea, behaviour, or style that spreads from person to person within a culture. It acts as a unit for carrying cultural ideas, symbols or practices that can be transmitted through writing, speech, gestures, rituals, or other imitable phenomena.

The memes created by IS give rise to information cascades that persist until disillusion sets in, such as eventually arises with Jihadi brides who end up wishing to return to their original countries and families.

Structural diversity

One of the reasons IS is so successful is because they send out multiple versions of each of their messages through multiple channels.

The structural diversity of messages that go viral how a particular news item, image or meme spreads in a variety of directions is important in understanding how information cascades can be created through online messages.

For instance, a single message received from a single source is less likely to go viral than the same message received from three separate sources. CySis have discovered that when a message spreads to a variety of online communities, it is more likely to go viral, ie spread rapidly throughout the Internet.

CySis have created measurements for assessing the significance of the first 50 people to whom a message spreads based on its structural diversity. Messages that show a significant chance of going viral can then be examined to see whether they indicate identifiable threats.

The company uses Twitter and Sina Weibo (the Chinese equivalent of Twitter) for data mining and analysis simply because they are readily available and are in the public domain. In addition, they are the favourite means of communication of most terrorist organisations and a variety of non-state actors.

Communications on the internet, however, are now so common that identifying information that is relevant to countering terrorist activities among the great pile of data being transmitted every day is extremely difficult. Examining all of it would absorb enormous resources in time and personnel.

However not all of it needs to be examined. Most tweets sent by IS and other entities are not successful and can be ignored. But sifting out the irrelevant tweets is a real challenge.

ScoutVision software from LookingGlass Cyber Solutions is an example of tool that can make sense of online data and identify security threats by sifting out irrelevant data.

However like all similar tools it needs to be supplemented by information gathered on the ground.

CySis have people in the UK, Iraq, Syria, Nigeria, Malaysia and Indonesia assessing how extremism forms in those particular cultures. They also help identify radical groups and their leaders.

The information that is gathered locally helps put online data research and analysis in context.

Because people in different countries use social media in different ways, this information also helps the developers of the online tools understand the cultural relevancy of how social media is used.

For example, IS uses various strategies for recruiting online. Some of these will work in some countries but not in others.

Combining online and offline research

The combination of online and offline research is expected to provide valuable scientific and cultural context for those who are fighting terrorism.

It will enable them to track incidents in the news, such as a terrorist attack, and see if there is any online activity before or after the incident. For example, a particular group may become notably excited or begin acting in a celebratory manner online, which might help identify the perpetrators.

When people protest against an action by a Western government, these tools can be used to analyse the reactions of particular groups and how protests are organised.

The end goal of all this development to is create an online tool that analysts can use to quickly identify the online activities of various groups, whether hostile or benign.

However, while these tolls maybe very useful in forestalling terrorist attacks or finding the culprits after an attack, they do not solve the fundamental problem of Western propaganda efforts against IS… the need for a single, clear and consistent message that is successful in counteracting the propaganda spouted by IS and other terrorist groups.

To do so will require:

[1] Development of a clear message based on the principals of Islam, so as to communicate with jihadis and potential jihadis in a language they understand.

[2] Learning and implementing the skills in social media and finding the resources needed to create structurally diverse broadcasts that go viral.


Flash Ads Stop Working on Chrome

In case your advertisements are not on the search giant’s network (AdSense), they better be in HTML5 – or they’re lifeless to Chrome. If they are already on the AdSense, then worry not, it probably has been converted to HTML5.

Google is making good on its promise to strangle Adobe Flash’s capability to auto-play in Chrome.

The online giant had set September 1, 2015 as the date from which non-essential Flash files might be click-to-play in the browser by default – effectively freezing out “many” Flash adverts in the process. As the date has passed, autorun no longer works for non essential flash files.

Users will have to right-click over the security-challenged plugin and select “Run this” if they wish to unfreeze a flash animation. Otherwise, the Flash files will stay suspended in a gray box, unable to trigger any malicious code on auto run.

Recently, back in June, Google warned that, in cooperation with Adobe, it will change the way in which Flash material is shown on web sites.

Mainly, “essential” Flash content (such as embedded video players) are allowed to automatically run, whereas unimportant Flash content, most of which are ads, shall be automatically paused.

Most pundits believed that it was due to security reasons, however, Google’s reasoning for this move is largely performance-based, apparently. The second largest American company worries that with too many pieces of Flash content running at once, Chrome’s efficiency is hamstrung, and, more critically, battery life is drained in notebooks and tablets running the Flash plugin.

Crucially, the move will also help kill the spread of malware via malicious Flash files, particularly dodgy adverts which have popped up on sites used by millions and millions of individuals (hint: like Yahoo!)

Google mentioned that advertisers who’re apprehensive about having their adverts switched off should contemplate converting their Flash art work to HTML5. According to the cyber-Goliath, “most Flash adverts uploaded to [Google] AdWords are automatically converted to HTML5.”

Basically, in other words, if you’re not on Google’s ad network, you are locked out of Chrome – unless you also switch to HTML5.

Interestingly, Google’s security engineers have been helping Adobe’s programmers to shore up Flash with anti-hacker defenses. Google’s Project Zero team revealed that the version of Flash – which was released to patch vulnerabilities exploited by spyware maker Hacking Team – employs three mitigations developed by Google and Adobe.


What Is Near Line SAS?

For many people, Near Line SAS and its difference with the original SAS interface can be confusing. Unfortunately, a lot of information available on the topic on the internet can be too technical and make the difference between a NL-SAS and SAS disk drive too complicated for the typical reader to understand.

This technology, however, can be explained relatively simply, and it can be said that there are several key differences between the two types of disk drive that are of no small importance. It is first of all, however, important to remember that there are three types of interface that are commonly used in today: SAS, NL-SAS and SATA.

The SAS disk drive is now considered the standard for enterprise storage. This is for several reasons, all relating to the advantages that this kind of disk drive brings to its users. Firstly, it is a very robust technology, with its ‘mean time between failure rate’ (MTBF) being 1.6 million hours, which translates into approximately 160 years’ of use.

This can be contrasted with SATA and NL-SAS, where the MTBF rate is around 1.2 million hours. Although this is also very impressive, SAS is still the clear winner when it comes to robustness of the interface for extended use.

SAS is also exceptionally reliable as a technology compared to a SATA or NL-SAS disk drive. When talking about reliability, it is important to consider how many errors occur on the disk’s media platters. In the case of SATA and NL-SAS, the ‘Bit Error Rate’ (BER) is around 1 in every Quadrillion.

This can be contrasted with SAS, which has a BER of 1 read bit error in every 10 Quadrillion. Going by these figures, the latter technology is around 10 times more reliable than the other two, which is quite significant when you take into account that every read error is data lost.

SAS is also superior to SATA and Near Line SAS in that it performs significantly better due to higher RPM speeds of 10k and 15k, compared with the other two’s use of only 7200 RPM. SAS also boasts an impressive average seek time of 3.5 milliseconds, compared with 9.5 milliseconds when it comes to SATA or Near Line SAS.

So what is Near Line SAS and are there any benefits to using this type of disk drive interface? NL-SAS is a newcomer to enterprise storage today, and is a fusion of SATA technology along with SAS interface. This results in an enterprise disk that uses SATA disk platters with SAS connectivity.

Many people benefit from buying a Near Line SAS disk, as they have the option to use it as either SAS or as SATA; if you have both SAS and SATA, NL-SAS is somewhere in the middle of the two. Its reliability and performance, however, are the same as SATA, and not SAS.

In conclusion, it can be said that as Near Line SAS disk drive only has the reliability of SATA, SAS is a more reliable option when you consider both the BER and MTBR rates explained above.Near Line SAS, unfortunately, does not have all the same capabilities of an SAS disk.

On the other hand, SATA will always have better capacity for price, meaning that NL-SAS can be a great cost-effective option that has the added benefits of SAS connectivity at the same time. It should be noted, however, that the SATA and NL-SAS only perform at 7200 RPM, whereas SAS runs at 10k or 15k.

All in all, Near Line SAS does have some benefits, as a blend between SAS and SATA. Despite this, SAS remains the best choice for high level performance, reliability and robustness compared with the other technologies available on the market today.

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