Posts with «military & defense» label

OpenAI's policy no longer explicitly bans the use of its technology for 'military and warfare'

Just a few days ago, OpenAI's usage policies page explicitly states that the company prohibits the use of its technology for "military and warfare" purposes. That line has since been deleted. As first noticed by The Intercept, the company updated the page on January 10 "to be clearer and provide more service-specific guidance," as the changelog states. It still prohibits the use of its large language models (LLMs) for anything that can cause harm, and it warns people against using its services to "develop or use weapons." However, the company has removed language pertaining to "military and warfare."

While we've yet to see its real-life implications, this change in wording comes just as military agencies around the world are showing an interest in using AI. "Given the use of AI systems in the targeting of civilians in Gaza, it’s a notable moment to make the decision to remove the words ‘military and warfare’ from OpenAI’s permissible use policy,” Sarah Myers West, a managing director of the AI Now Institute, told the publication. 

The explicit mention of "military and warfare" in the list of prohibited uses indicated that OpenAI couldn't work with government agencies like the Department of Defense, which typically offers lucrative deals to contractors. At the moment, the company doesn't have a product that could directly kill or cause physical harm to anybody. But as The Intercept said, its technology could be used for tasks like writing code and processing procurement orders for things that could be used to kill people. 

When asked about the change in its policy wording, OpenAI spokesperson Niko Felix told the publication that the company "aimed to create a set of universal principles that are both easy to remember and apply, especially as our tools are now globally used by everyday users who can now also build GPTs." Felix explained that "a principle like ‘Don’t harm others’ is broad yet easily grasped and relevant in numerous contexts," adding that OpenAI "specifically cited weapons and injury to others as clear examples." However, the spokesperson reportedly declined to clarify whether prohibiting the use of its technology to "harm" others included all types of military use outside of weapons development. 

This article originally appeared on Engadget at

Researchers posed as foreign actors, and data brokers sold them information on military servicemembers anyway

Third parties selling our personal data is annoying. But for certain sensitive populations like military service members, the selling of that information could quickly become a national security threat. Researchers at Duke University released a study on Monday tracking what measures data brokers have in place to prevent unidentified or potentially malign actors from buying personal data on members of the military. As it turns out, the answer is often few to none — even when the purchaser is actively posing as a foreign agent.

A 2021 Duke study by the same lead researcher revealed that data brokers advertised that they had access to — and were more than happy to sell —information on US military personnel. In this more recent study researchers used wiped computers, VPNs, burner phones bought with cash and other means of identity obfuscation to go undercover. They scraped the websites of data brokers to see which were likely to have available data on servicemembers. Then they attempted to make those purchases, posing as two entities: and With little-or-no vetting, several of the brokers transferred the requested data not only to the presumptively Chicago-based datamarketresearch, but also to the server of the .asia domain which was located in Singapore. The records only cost between 12 to 32 cents a piece.

The sensitive information included health records and financial information. Location data was also available, although the team at Duke decided not to purchase that — though it's not clear if this was for financial or ethical reasons. “Access to this data could be used by foreign and malicious actors to target active-duty military personnel, veterans, and their families and acquaintances for profiling, blackmail, targeting with information campaigns, and more,” the report cautions. At an individual level, this could also include identity theft or fraud.

This gaping hole in our national security apparatus is due in large part to the absence of comprehensive federal regulations governing either individual data privacy, or much of the business practices engaged in by data brokers. Senators Elizabeth Warren, Bill Cassidy and Marco Rubio introduced the Protecting Military Service Members' Data Act in 2022 to give power to the Federal Trade Commission to prevent data brokers from selling military personnel information to adversarial nations. They reintroduced the bill in March 2023 after it stalled out. Despite bipartisan support, it still hasn’t made it past the introduction phase.

This article originally appeared on Engadget at

The NSA has a new security center specifically for guarding against AI

The National Security Agency (NSA) is starting a dedicated artificial intelligence security center, as reported by AP. This move comes after the government has begun to increasingly rely on AI, integrating multiple algorithms into defense and intelligence systems. The security center will work to protect these systems from theft and sabotage, in addition to safeguarding the country from external AI-based threats.

The NSA’s recent move toward AI security was announced Thursday by outgoing director General Paul Nakasone. He says that the division will operate underneath the umbrella of the pre-existing Cybersecurity Collaboration Center. This entity works with private industry and international partners to protect the US from cyberattacks stemming from China, Russia and other countries with active malware and hacking campaigns.

For instance, the agency issued an advisory this week suggesting that Chinese hackers have been targeting government, industrial and telecommunications outfits via hacked router firmware. There’s also the specter of election interference, though Nakasone says he’s yet to see any evidence of Russia or China trying to influence the 2024 US presidential election. Still, this has been a big problem in the past, and that was before the rapid proliferation of AI algorithms like the CIA’s recently-announced chatbot.

As artificial intelligence threatens to boost the abilities of these bad actors, the US government will look to this new security division to keep up. The NSA decided on establishing the unit after conducting a study that suggested poorly-secured AI models pose a significant national security challenge. This has only been compounded by the increase of generative AI technologies that the NSA points out can be used for both good and bad purposes.

Nakasone says the organization will become “NSA’s focal point for leveraging foreign intelligence insights, contributing to the development of best practices guidelines, principles, evaluation, methodology and risk frameworks” for both AI security and for the goal of secure development and adoption of artificial intelligence within “our national security systems and our defense industrial base.” To that end, the group will work hand-in-hand with industry leaders, science labs, academic institutions, international partners and, of course, the Department of Defense.

Nakasone is on his way out of the NSA and the US Cyber Command and he’ll be succeeded by his current deputy, Air Force Lt. Gen. Timothy Haugh. Nakasone has been at his post since 2018 and, by all accounts, has had quite a successful run of it.

This article originally appeared on Engadget at

SpaceX lands US Space Force contract for Starshield satellite communications

SpaceX has won a $70 million contract with the US Space Force to provide satellite communications for the US Space Force via its Starshield program, Bloomberg reported. The company will effectively be repurposing its Starlink network for military usage as a way to provide a "secured satellite network for government entities," according to SpaceX's website. The contract has a one-year duration. 

"The SpaceX contract provides for Starshield end-to-end service (via the Starlink constellation), user terminals, ancillary equipment, network management and other related services," a Space Force spokesperson told CNBC in a statement. The initial phase requires the Space Force to pay $15 million to SpaceX by September 30th, and SpaceX will support 54 military "mission partners" across Department of Defence (DoD) branches. 

A group of US senators recently criticized SpaceX's actions in Ukraine, after a biography on Elon Musk revealed that he refused Ukraine's request to extend Starlink coverage to allow a naval attack on Russian-held Crimea. "We are deeply concerned with the ability and willingness of SpaceX to interrupt their service at Mr. Musk’s whim and for the purpose of handcuffing a sovereign country’s self-defense, effectively defending Russian interests," they wrote.

However in a post on his social network X, Musk refuted that sentiment. "Starlink needs to be a civilian network, not a participant to combat. Starshield will be owned by the US government and controlled by DoD Space Force," he said. 

SpaceX is already a key contractor for the Pentagon, providing the military with rocket launches. Last year, the Space Force approved the company's reusable Falcon Heavy to carry US spy satellites into orbit. Earlier this year, SpaceX won a contract to provide an unspecified number of Starlink ground terminals for use in Ukraine. 

This article originally appeared on Engadget at

Ukrainian official claims Elon Musk cost lives by refusing Starlink access during a drone operation

Excerpts from Walter Isaacson's Elon Musk biography are coming to light ahead of its release next week, revealing some new details about the billionaire's decision to provide Ukraine with Starlink access amid the country's war with Russia. According to an excerpt CNN reported on, Musk allegedly told SpaceX workers to shut down Starlink access close to the Crimea coast to prevent a Ukrainian drone attack on Russia's naval fleet.

Musk, who has reportedly been in contact with Russian officials including President Vladimir Putin, is said to have been worried that the attack would lead to Russia retaliating with nuclear weapons. Ukrainian leaders seemingly begged Musk to reactivate Starlink access but drones that were approaching Russian warships “lost connectivity and washed ashore harmlessly,” CNN cites Isaacson as stating.

Musk's alleged actions have had significant consequences for Ukraine, according to Mykhailo Podolyak, an advisor to President Volodymyr Zelensky. Podolyak wrote on X (the platform formerly known as Twitter that Musk owns) that in preventing drones from attacking the Russian ships, Musk enabled them to fire missiles at Ukrainian cities. "As a result, civilians, children are being killed," Podolyak claimed. "This is the price of a cocktail of ignorance and big ego."

Sometimes a mistake is much more than just a mistake. By not allowing Ukrainian drones to destroy part of the Russian military (!) fleet via #Starlink interference, @elonmusk allowed this fleet to fire Kalibr missiles at Ukrainian cities. As a result, civilians, children are…

— Михайло Подоляк (@Podolyak_M) September 7, 2023

According to Musk, however, Starlink was not active in those areas and so SpaceX had nothing to disable. “There was an emergency request from government authorities to activate Starlink all the way to Sevastopol. The obvious intent being to sink most of the Russian fleet at anchor," he wrote on X. "If I had agreed to their request, then SpaceX would be explicitly complicit in a major act of war and conflict escalation.”

There was an emergency request from government authorities to activate Starlink all the way to Sevastopol.

The obvious intent being to sink most of the Russian fleet at anchor.

If I had agreed to their request, then SpaceX would be explicitly complicit in a major act of war and…

— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) September 7, 2023

Regardless of how he's framing the situation, Musk has admitted to making another decision that has impacted the Ukraine-Russia conflict in one way or another. A report late last year indicated that around 1,300 Starlink terminals Ukraine was using temporarily went offline due to a dispute over payments for the internet service.

This article originally appeared on Engadget at

The Air Force wants $6 billion to build a fleet of AI-controlled drones

The F-22 and F-35 are two of the most cutting-edge and capable war machines in America's arsenal. They also cost $143 million and $75 million a pop, respectively. Facing increasing pressure from China, which has accelerated its conventional weapon procurement efforts in recent months, the Pentagon announced Monday a program designed to build out America's drone production base in response. As part of that effort, the United States Air Force has requested nearly $6 billion in federal funding over the next five years to construct a fleet of XQ-58A Valkyrie uncrewed aircraft, each of which will cost a (comparatively) paltry $3 million.

The Valkyrie comes from Kratos Defense & Security Solutions as part of the USAF's Low Cost Attritable Strike Demonstrator (LCASD) program. The 30-foot uncrewed aircraft weighs 2,500 pounds unfueled and can carry up to 1,200 total pounds of ordinance. The XQ-58 is built as a stealthy escort aircraft to fly in support of F-22 and F-35 during combat missions, though the USAF sees the aircraft filling a variety of roles by tailoring its instruments and weapons to each mission. Those could includes surveillance and resupply actions, in addition to swarming enemy aircraft in active combat.

Earlier this month, Kratos successfully operated the XQ-58 during a three-hour demonstration at Elgin Air Force Base. “AACO [the Autonomous Air Combat Operations team] has taken a multi-pronged approach to uncrewed flight testing of machine learning Artificial Intelligence and has met operational experimentation objectives by using a combination of high-performance computing, modeling and simulation, and hardware in the loop testing to train an AI agent to safely fly the XQ-58 uncrewed aircraft,” Dr. Terry Wilson, AACO program manager, said in a press statement at the time.

“It’s a very strange feeling,” USAF test pilot Major Ross Elder told the New York Times. “I’m flying off the wing of something that’s making its own decisions. And it’s not a human brain.” The USAF has been quick to point out that the drones are to remain firmly under the command of human pilots and commanders. 

The Air Force took heat in June when Colonel Tucker "Cinco" Hamilton "misspoke" at a press conference and suggested that an AI could potentially be induced to turn on its operator, though the DoD dismissed that possibility as a "hypothetical thought exercise" rather than "simulation."

"Any Air Force drone [will be] designed to allow commanders and operators to exercise appropriate levels of human judgment over the use of force," a Pentagon spokeswoman told the NYT. Congress will need to pass the DoD's budget for the next fiscal year before construction efforts can begin. The XQ-58 program will require an initial outlay of $3.3 billion in 2024 if approved.

This article originally appeared on Engadget at

China reportedly had ‘deep, persistent access’ to Japanese networks for months

Late last year, Nikkei Asia reported that Japan was planning to add thousands of personnel to its military cyber defense unit. Now, we might know why — according to a report from the Washington Post, hackers in China had "deep, persistent access" to Japanese defense networks. When the National Security Agency is said to have first discovered the breach in late 2020, NSA Chief and Commander of US Cyber Command General Paul Nakasone flew to Japan with White House deputy national security advisor Matthew Pottinger to report the breach to officials.

Despite briefings that reached as high as Japan's prime minister, the Washington Post reports that hacking from China remained an issue for several months, persisting through the end of the Trump administration and well into early 2021.

US Cyber Command initially offered Japan assistance in purging its systems of malware but were reportedly rebuffed because the country was not comfortable with another nation's military accessing their systems. Instead, Japan elected to use domestic commercial security firms to find vulnerabilities, relying on the US only for guidance on what those firms found. Japan would eventually adopt a more active national security strategy, which is said to include a new cyber command to monitor networks around the clock, and as many as 4,000 active cybersecurity personnel.

This article originally appeared on Engadget at

The US is destroying the world's last known chemical weapons stockpile

All of the the world's governments will, at least officially, be out of the chemical weapons business. The US Army tellsThe New York Times it should finish destroying the world's last declared chemical weapons stockpile as soon as tomorrow, July 7th. The US and most other nations agreed to completely eliminate their arsenals within 10 years after the Chemical Weapons Convention took effect in 1997, but the sheer size of the American collection (many of the warheads are several decades old) and the complexity of safe disposal left the country running late.

The current method relies on robots that puncture, drain and wash the chemical-laden artillery shells and rockets, which are then baked to render them harmless. The drained gas is diluted in hot water and neutralized either with bacteria (for mustard gas) or caustic soda (for nerve agents). The remaining liquid is then incinerated. Teams use X-rays to check for leaks before destruction starts, and they remotely monitor robots to minimize contact with hazardous material. 

The Army initially wanted to dispose of the weapons by sinking them on ships, as it had quietly done before, but faced a public backlash over the potential environmental impact. Proposals to incinerate chemical agents in the 1980s also met with objections, although the military ultimately destroyed a large chunk of the stockpile that way.

The US last used chemical weapons in World War I, but kept producing them for decades as a deterrent. Attention to the program first spiked in 1968, when strange sheep deaths led to revelations that the Army was storing chemical weapons across the US and even testing them in the open.

This measure will only wipe out confirmed stockpiles. Russia has been accused of secretly making nerve gas despite insisting that it destroyed its last chemical weapons in 2017. Pro-government Syrian military forces and ISIS extremists used the weapons throughout much of the 2010s. This won't stop hostile countries and terrorists from using the toxins.

Even so, this is a major milestone. In addition to wiping out an entire category of weapons of mass destruction, it represents another step toward reduced lethality in war. Drones reduce the exposure for their operators (though not the targets), and experts like AI researcher Geoffrey Hinton envision an era when robots fight each other. While humanity would ideally end war altogether, efforts like these at least reduce the casualties.

This article originally appeared on Engadget at

Joby Aviation's first production air taxi cleared for flight tests

Joby Aviation has been cleared by the FAA (Federal Aviation Authority) to start flight tests on its first production prototype air taxi, the company wrote in a press release. It's a large step in the company's aim to start shipping the eVTOL aircraft (electric vertical takeoff and landing) to customers in 2024 and launch an air taxi service by 2025. 

"The aircraft will now undergo initial flight testing before being delivered to Edwards Air Force Base, California, where it will be used to demonstrate a range of potential logistics use cases," Joby wrote. 

The aircraft can take off and land like a helicopter, then tilt its six rotors horizontally and fly like an airplane at up to 200 MPH. It's designed to carry a pilot and four passengers over a distance up to 100 miles on a charge — enough range for most types of air taxi operations. At the same time, Joby claims it's nearly silent in cruise mode and 100 times quieter than conventional aircraft during takeoff and landing.

Joby's first production prototype recently rolled off the company's assembly line in Marina, California. The plant was built in partnership with Toyota, Joby's largest investor with a $394 million stake. Cementing that relationship, Joby announced that it was appointing Toyota North America CEO Tetsuo (Ted) Ogawa to the board of directors.

With the the FAA's special airworthiness certificate in hand, Joby can perform flight tests of full production aircraft, following tests with full-scale prototypes that began in 2017. In May last year, the company received another crucial permit, the FAA's Part 135 air carrier certificate for commercial operations. It recently teamed with Delta Air Lines to offer travel to and from airports, and its website shows a scenario of flying from downtown NYC to JFK airport in just seven minutes compared to 49 minutes in a car.

Now, Joby must clear the largest hurdle with full FAA type and production certification in order to take paying passengers on commercial flights. That's likely about 18 months away, aerospace engineer and Vertical Flight Society director Mike Hirschberg told New Scientist. Its first customer would be the US Air Force, as part of a $131 million contract under the military's Agility Prime program, with deliveries set for 2024.

Alll that puts the company tantalizingly close to delivering a true air taxi service, something that has eluded numerous other manufacturers to date. Last year, the Kittyhawk aircraft backed by Larry Page shut down, and other companies like Ehang, Archer, Volocopter and even Airbus aren't as far along as Joby. "This first aircraft coming off our pilot manufacturing line is a really, really big deal for the company," Joby CEO JoeBen Bevirt told TechCrunch

This article originally appeared on Engadget at

US intelligence report says Havana Syndrome probably wasn't caused by 'energy weapons'

Energy weapons are real. Military and weapons researchers have developed microwave guns and lasers that can be used to disable soldiers or shoot down drones — but a new report from the CIA and other intelligence agencies say that these kinds of weapons probably aren't responsible for the condition known as Havana Syndrome.

When US personnel overseas began suffering from unexplained headaches, nausea and hearing problems in 2016, many were quick to suspect foul play by a foreign adversary. A panel of experts concluded that the anomalous health incidents that came to be known as Havana Syndrome could plausibly have been caused by "pulsed electromagnetic energy," prompting some of those afflicted with the condition to blame their symptoms on a mysterious new energy weapon, possibly wielded by Russian operatives. Now, seven intelligence agencies say that panel got it wrong.

The Washington Post reports that even after reviewing about 1,000 cases across the world, the CIA and half a dozen agencies concluded that it was unlikely that the symptoms were caused by a foreign adversary. Not by energy weapons, not from electronic surveillance, and not from unintentional exposure to radio waves or ultrasonic beams. Analysts simply couldn't find any common pattern that linked the anomalous health incidents together that could suggest an intentional attack, noting that in some cases there wasn't even a direct line of sight from which an energy weapon could have been used.

So, what does cause Havana Syndrome? Officials say that the majority of the cases they reviewed could be linked to pre-existing medical conditions. Environmental factors, like poor building ventilation, could also contribute to some of the symptoms — but the report simply couldn't find a link to an intentional, external factor.

The report seems pretty confident that Russia isn't using an experimental energy weapon to cause nausea, hearing loss and headaches, but officials say that new information could change that assessment: If intelligence reports reveal that a foreign government has developed technology capable of causing these symptoms, they'll take another look and reassess.

This article originally appeared on Engadget at