America's Digital Maginot Lineby@atrigueiro
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America's Digital Maginot Line

by Anthony WatsonMay 25th, 2021
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The Maginot Line is an infamous defensive project of the French. World War One was so horrific, the French were determined they would never be invaded again. They built an impressive string of fortifications along the border with Germany. It was known as the Maginot Line after its greatest supporter, Andre Maginot.

France had experienced horrific damage in World War I. As a result, the French military was determined to build a powerful defense. When André Maginot took government office in 1929, he spent a fortune to construct an enormous defensive blockade, the Maginot Line, across the German border.

At the time, it was seen as impenetrable. In the end it was a terrible mistake because it allowed the Nazis to easily outflank the immovable object the Maginot Line was. The Nazis had a more mobile vision of the battlefield. That vision proved to be the future of warfare. The Maginot Line was a terrible mistake but at least the French could see where the money was going. Even if some thought it was a mistake, the actual effort was obvious. The construction accomplishments were concrete...literally, so there was no concern on where the money was being spent, but rather "why put the money here?" was the debate.

Today, it is far more difficult to evaluate how money is being used in the defense of the United States. When one learns the United States Army has somehow lost six trillion dollars, one is concerned. Perhaps one is initially thankful to hear it was not REAL money, it is just a computer glitch.

U.S. Military Commits $6.5 Trillion Accounting Error, Now What?

Americans need not worry themselves with an audit. Americans must ignore the fact a recent audit of the Pentagon uncovered trillions more missing. At least, if they want to sleep at night, they have to ignore it.

U.S. Army fudged its accounts by trillions of dollars, auditor finds
NEW YORK (Reuters) - The United States Army's finances are so jumbled it had to make trillions of dollars of improper…

The Pentagon is calling these missing trillions accounting errors caused by computer glitches. The problem for American citizens is there are no concrete structures to review. Americans are assured the proper measures are being taken to protect vital infrastructure from attack. This is hard to believe if there are problems wrangling the relatively simple software an accounting application represents. Sure ERP software can be VERY complicated, but it is not rocket science nor is it high tech AI.

If the Pentagon cannot master accounting software where does one find faith they can handle the 21st century's new technologies. These are valid questions which are not being asked. Even when they are asked, Americans cannot get a warm fuzzy feeling from the answers.

The US military and Defense industry have not proven themselves to be competent here. The Solar Winds hack has been followed on quite quickly by the Colonial Pipeline being held for ransom and these are just the recent cyberattacks. The Colonial Pipeline ransomware attack has been ascribed to nation state actors by American "intelligence analysts". However, when one looks at who profits here, Occam's Razor indicates the most likely perpetrators are private hackers, perhaps Russian but private, hired by individuals with a stake in oil prices.

We have already seen energy companies manipulate markets with the Enron scandal, just one example. Not only, does the nation's infrastructure need to be protected from external threats, it must be protected from internal threats. One of the greatest internal threats the United States faces is growing corruption and cronyism at all levels of government.

The digital ignorance at the Pentagon is mind-boggling. The citizens of the United States have handed the keys of their computer kingdom to digital incompetents. Apart from the trillions lost in the aforementioned "computer glitches", the failure to understand the security risks of allowing soldiers to use Strava is very distressing. It is illustrative of the dangerous groupthink occurring within the American military.

When all of the nation's bases all across the world were revealed by a simple Strava heat map, Americans should have recognized trouble. The Pentagon has a PUBLIC budget of a trillion dollars. This data dump indicates several layers of failure. In light of the depth and breadth of this failure, the title of this essay may not be all that far off. It seems likely, if they truly are this clueless, the military and political leadership have taken trillions of dollars to build a digital Maginot Line.

Take a real close look at the image for this story. It is a simple screenshot of what Strava provides for free to fitness enthusiasts. As an example for this essay, I tracked a short dog walk. If you look closely, you can see us walk into my backyard and then wander aimlessly about before returning home.

Not only can you see when she walks onto my neighbor's lawns, you can see when she walks all way up to a back gate to exchange canine gossip with a neighbor dog. You can actually see movements WITHIN my house. You can see me turn it on in the dining room and walk into the backyard with her before entering the public streets of the neighborhood. When I realized this was the level of detail being delivered for free, the Strava heat map dump became even more shocking.

Given that Strava displays this information to the user, it means EVERY soldier using it knows the level of detail being provided for free. Not a single one thought they should escalate the fact this information was being collected up the chain of command? I doubt that given the hundreds of thousands of enlisted in the US military. Because if not a one of those thousands thought to escalate then America has a very technically challenged enlisted soldier.

However, I think it far more likely it was escalated by at least a few enlisted soldiers. The fact the data dump happened means their concerns were not taken seriously. This is the dangerous groupthink I referred to earlier. The sensitivity of this data and the detail provided were open for everyone to see, yet soldiers were using Strava at classified sites!!! Most likely leadership at some level was aware of the data being collected and took no action.

Too much secrecy and not enough accountability is a very dangerous situation. It is doubly dangerous in the 21st century. America needs a source code audit badly. An open-source revolution on how the US government and military are spending money and making decisions in the digital space is long overdue.

It will be extremely painful. There will be national security concerns raised, but the lack of transparency has to be the biggest national security concern for the truly knowledgeable. The corrupt manipulations of national infrastructure used to line the pockets of ne'er-do-wells via ransomware attacks, real AND staged, are of real concern for sure. However, a failure to recognize the existence of the digital Maginot Line could lead to a similar catastrophe as befell the analog Maginot Line and the country which built it.