Army sets sights on targets in space and cyberspace
The People's Liberation Army strategists have made little secret of their desire to establish cyber warfare units capable of mounting just such sorts of mission as the hacking of international government targets.
From a satellite-killing missile test in January to reports of spyware in German government computers last month, there are growing concerns that China is being increasingly sophisticated and ambitious in its use of technology to secure information and disrupt communications.
For more than a decade the Chinese military has been aware of the potential of information warfare. Army journals and generals' speeches have emphasised the importance of securing "electromagnetic dominance" in the early stages of any conflict. Although the US military is dominant in terms of firepower, the Pentagon's reliance on satellites and computers is seen as a source of vulnerability.
The US department of defence says China has an established information warfare unit. Its scale is unknown, but Beijing has been boosting military spending for 20 years and switching the army's focus from conventional arms to high technology. This year it declared military spending rose 17.8% to $45bn, but US analysts believe the real sum is much higher if the cost of the space programme and secret projects are added.
Beijing's offensive capability in cyberspace and outer space were apparent on January 11, when its succeeded in blasting one of its own communications satellites into smithereens 500 miles above the earth.
This test heightened fears of the "China threat", particularly in the US, which sees this fast rising Asian economy as the country most likely to challenge its global dominance.
The technological prowess of China is growing along with internet penetration, which will reach 150 million of its people this year and is on course to overtake the US within five years.
Chinese censors use some of the world's most sophisticated internet filters. The so-called Great Firewall of China restricts information about the Dalai Lama, Taiwan, Falun Gong and other politically sensitive topics. Experts have offered to share this technology with other repressive states, including Zimbabwe.
While China is almost certainly among the many countries developing systems of cyber attack, it denies making any use of them in the latest case. "The Chinese government has consistently opposed and vigorously attacked according to the law all internet-wrecking crimes, including hacking," a foreign ministry spokeswoman told reporters. She said the accusations were an example of "cold war" thinking.
In Taiwan, the main target of the Chinese military, there have also been repeated attempts by mainland hackers to enter government networks.
China-based hackers have also been blamed for attempted attacks on offices in the Houses of Parliament in Britain and for leaving offensive messages and patriotic slogans written in Mandarin on websites in Japan.
Portsmouth University plans to wage war with flying robots
Portsmouth University and Ant Scientific formed Team Locust to take part in a Ministry of Defence competition, and their idea has been short-listed.
The university says:
The competition - Grand Challenge - aims to put robots which can identify snipers and bombs in built up areas on to battlefields across the globe.
Charlie Baker-Wyatt, manager of the university's defence and homeland security research section, said: "The challenge was to create devices that could be used in the fight against people who don't fight under established rules." (Cont..)
Mind-controlled prosthetic arm plays the piano
If all goes well, by 2009 the agency will petition the Food and Drug Administration to put the arm through clinical trials.
This summer the team hit a critical milestone when it finished Proto 2, a thought-controlled mechanical arm -- complete with hand and articulated fingers -- that can perform 25 joint motions. This dexterity approaches that of a native arm, which can make 30 motions, and trumps the previously most agile bionic arm, the Proto 1, which could bend at the elbow, rotate its wrist and shoulder, and open and close its fingers. A person wearing a Proto 2 could conceivably play the piano.
The next steps are to shrink the battery, develop more-efficient motors, and refine the bulky electrodes used to read electrical signals in muscles. As for making actual music, the wearer is on his own.
How it works: (cont..)
Two-day terrorism exercise could clog traffic
Drivers can expect traffic congestion around McChord Air Force Base over the next two days because of an anti-terrorism training exercise.
There will be increased security measures at all gates because of the basewide exercise today and Thursday, according to a news release from McChord. In addition, the roads around the base could be congested because crews will be testing various security measures.
McChord officials ask people to avoid coming to the base during the drill unless absolutely necessary. Movement within the base also will be difficult because officials will be simulating emergencies that will snarl traffic.
The exercise is designed to test McChord’s preparedness to respond to a security breach or attack.
Neighbors might hear sirens and voices, in part, because the basewide public address system will announce different security levels. Each announcement will begin and end with, "Exercise, exercise, exercise."
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