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DARPA Counter Sniper Technology – 1996 “Bullet Ears”- Saving lives today… February 18, 2014

Posted by Chris Mark in Uncategorized.
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DARPAWhile I was serving as a Reconnaissance Marine in 1996, I was asked if I was interested in an  opportunity to work with the Defense Advanced Research Project Agency (DARPA) on some counter sniper technology that was being developed?  Since I was also a Marine Scout/Sniper with combat experience as a sniper, I was told I was a good fit.  I jumped at the opportunity to  make some per diem, and screw around at Ft. Benning during the Summer Olympics, which were being held in Atltanta (about an hour away).

There were numerous systems and we spent our days shooting, trying to beat the COBRAsystems, writing reports on our findings, and talking trash with all of the bearded PhD engineers who built the cool toys that we could break.  It was immensely fun.  In 1996, the technology was in its infancy and the computer processing power was not yet well enough defined to make the systems very effective.  There was one system that we evaluated that struck a chord with the snipers.  It was based upon a series of sensors that ‘heard’ the supersonic crack of the bullet as it passed between the sensors.  It would use basic time differences and triangulate the position of the shot and, using basic trigonometry, it could calculate where the shot originated, the caliber, and other factors.  Ultimately we gave it good reviews and the DARPA representative code named it “Bullet Ears” (yeah..I am not making this up)..

Today I was reading an article by Steve Reichert (the Marine Sniper with the Mile long shot and three kills with one shot) titled DARPA’s XM3 Sniper Rifle.  In the article, it references a sniper detection system named ‘Boomerange’ by Raytheon’s BBN Systems.  Imagine my surprise when I checked out the system and realized it was the actual finished version of “Bullet Ears” we had tested almost 20 years ago!…It has been deployed in Iraq and Afghanistan…Wow.  To think it has actually saved lives.  That is very cool to think that a technology we tested in 1996 is saving lives in 2014…

“Does an F1 Car = F1 Racer? OR Does a Bullet = Sniper?” NO – Expertise ain’t about technology July 19, 2012

Posted by Chris Mark in Uncategorized.
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I was reading a story today on Foxnews titled: “could guided bullets turn an average joe into a sniper?”  The article is written by a former ballerina turned “defense specialist” (I didn’t make that up).  I have written about this subject before in “The Carpenter Not The Hammer Builds the House”.  In short, her article suggests that new, more accurate bullets could turn an “average joe” into a sniper.  The referenced article on bullets demonstrates several major flaws in thinking about security or defense.  First, it quotes a “specialist” who has no specialized knowledge of the subject gained through actual experience.  I am not doubting that Ms. Barrie has read some great books and attended great lectures but the fact remains that without real world experience, it is difficult to understand how she is qualified to speak on the subject at hand.  We see this in many areas of security from information to physical and so on.  The second issue is one I see every day.  It is the mistaken belief that the technology makes the expert.  It discounts the knowledge, training and practice required to use the ‘tool’ with effect.  If I were to buy a Formula 1 racecar would I suddenly be considered a ‘racer’?  A more accurate rifle does not make a sniper…it simply makes a sniper more accurate.  Within information security we see the same flawed logic.  Companies believe that by purchasing the latest and greatest technology they can replace expertise gained through years of work ‘in the trenches’.  A leading application layer firewall is only as effective as the person deploying, configuring and managing the device.  The moral of the story?  Technology makes experts more effective they do not create or establish expertise. BTW: the picture is a Canadian Sea Marshal Tactical Team (CSMTT) sniper on a ship.

“Warren & Brandeis Cringe”- Identification through Typing March 21, 2012

Posted by Chris Mark in InfoSec & Privacy, Laws and Leglslation.
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Several years ago a few researchers demonstrated that the way in which people type is unique enough to be used to identify that person with a high degree of confidence.  It is not simply speed but includes cadence, time between particular keystrokes and other aspects.  This week DARPA announced that they are working to make the solution a reality.   Due to the uniqueness of a person’s typing DARPA says: “mimicking keystroke dynamics is physiologically improbable,” This means that it would increase the challenge of masquerading as another person.  I mark this up as “good in theory and terrifying in practice”.  In a talk last year a DARPA representative explained the process as such: “is move to a world where you sit down at a console, you identify yourself, and you just start working, and the authentication happens in the background, invisible to you, while you continue to do your work without interruptions.”  This is precisely where the issue comes to life. (more…)

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