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NotUrAvgElliot

US Military says goodbye to the floppy disk

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Posted · Original PosterOP

Came across an article this morning on Engadget and found it interesting, and a little bemusing as well.

 

The US Military, specifically the Air Force, have been using the same computer since the 1970s that, with the use of 8-inch floppy disks, "could receive an order from the president to launch nuclear missiles from silos across the United States."

 

According to C4ISRNET.com, Lt. Jason Rossi has announced that the old floppy disk method was replaced in June 2019 by a "highly secure solid state digital storage solution". Interestingly, Lt. Rossi defends the use of the ancient SACCS system, "used by US nuclear forces to send emergency action messages from command centres to field forces" by explaining that it is virtually un-hackable"You can't hack something that doesn't have an IP address. It's a very unique system -- it is old and it is very good," Rossi said.

 

"In 2016, the Government Accountability Office wrote that SACCS runs on an IBM Series/1 computer dating from the 1970s and that the Defense Department planned “to update its data storage solutions, port expansion processors, portable terminals, and desktop terminals by the end of fiscal year 2017,” but it’s unclear whether those upgrades have occurred."

 

Personally, I find it fascinating that the military uses such a system to this day - although you wonder how much use it actually gets!

 

Sources:

C4ISRNET.com

Engadget

Techspot

 

@LinusTech @Slick

 

 

 

 

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4 minutes ago, NotUrAvgElliot said:

"You can't hack something that doesn't have an IP address. It's a very unique system -- it is old and it is very good,"

If you have physical access to a machine you can do just about anything. Additionally, humans are the weakest point when it comes to security, and that has been proven time and time again. Regardless, the US military is generally pretty good at preventing people from accessing unauthorized areas...


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1 minute ago, Bacon soup said:

This one, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1983_Soviet_nuclear_false_alarm_incident is the most terrifying.

A single man...one. A Soviet Officer no less, held the fate of the world in his hands, and stepped back from the brink of nuclear destruction.

 


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4 minutes ago, Radium_Angel said:

This one, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1983_Soviet_nuclear_false_alarm_incident is the most terrifying.

A single man...one. A Soviet Officer no less, held the fate of the world in his hands, and stepped back from the brink of nuclear destruction.

 

read the Arkipov one. Three senior officers in one submarine argued over nuking a US ship 

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39 minutes ago, NotUrAvgElliot said:

According to C4ISRNET.com, Lt. Jason Rossi has announced that the old floppy disk method was replaced in June 2019 by a "highly secure solid state digital storage solution". Interestingly, Lt. Rossi defends the use of the ancient SACCS system, "used by US nuclear forces to send emergency action messages from command centres to field forces" by explaining that it is virtually un-hackable"You can't hack something that doesn't have an IP address. It's a very unique system -- it is old and it is very good," Rossi said.

 

Translation : some company took a couple 50$ "mil-spec" EEPROM memory chips (that would normally cost  1-2$ each in volume) and a 10-20$ microcontroller (rad hard if you're lucky) to emulate the floppy disk interface, put it in some cartridge format or something that makes it look fancy and sold it to the government for $100-250k or something ridiculous like that.

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21 minutes ago, mariushm said:

Translation : some company took a couple 50$ "mil-spec" EEPROM memory chips (that would normally cost  1-2$ each in volume) and a 10-20$ microcontroller (rad hard if you're lucky) to emulate the floppy disk interface, put it in some cartridge format or something that makes it look fancy and sold it to the government for $100-250k or something ridiculous like that.

Lockheed, then.


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WHO WILL WIN?!

In the red corner: we have stacks platters, which have increased in size since the 1970's, to now have over 12TB in a single drive.

OR

In the blue corner: 8" floppy bois.

/s

 

Although I suspect they just kept using it because:

1. they had them already

b. they found the disks to be reliable

4.  easy to transfer from system-to-system

IV. they didn't need a lot of storage until recently.


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Also... all of the computer code that this ran on would not have been trivial to port to a modern language completely and totally bug free. Software emulation might not actually be acceptable in this circumstance.


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2 hours ago, rcmaehl said:

If you have physical access to a machine you can do just about anything. Additionally, humans are the weakest point when it comes to security, and that has been proven time and time again. Regardless, the US military is generally pretty good at preventing people from accessing unauthorized areas...

My limited understanding of IBM mainframes is that you cannot hack them directly anyway as they have no user interface. It's more of a server/thin client situation where the mainframe does all the work but additional terminals are required to actually make it do anything.

 

Assuming they just had a mainframe sitting there doing one job I'd say it is virtually unhackable, even with direct access.


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You think this is bad, the ATF legitimately still does paper-only paperwork. If you ever wondered why it takes many months to get approval for a suppressor, there you go.


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2 hours ago, Kilrah said:

There are interesting engineering challenges in a system that's supposed to sit idle for 40 years BUT has to work 100% the one random time you'll need it...

It’s more likely to never turn back on after a reboot then not work after being powered on for so long


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Just keeping this here as a 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Makes you wonder where all the military spending went to.


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2 hours ago, NotUrAvgElliot said:
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its at the bottom
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Haha I saw the Last Week Tonight episode about floppy disks in nuclear silos a couple days ago. Hilarious. Also the state of the nuclear silos is pathetic.

 

2 hours ago, Radium_Angel said:

This one, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1983_Soviet_nuclear_false_alarm_incident is the most terrifying.

A single man...one. A Soviet Officer no less, held the fate of the world in his hands, and stepped back from the brink of nuclear destruction.

 

I think the Cuban issue was worse. Only one officer stopped a nuclear strike, and IIRC there's 3 required to launch. So. 66% were already yes.

4 minutes ago, williamcll said:

Makes you wonder where all the military spending went to.

Autonomous drones. Nuclear powered aircraft carriers. Actually fighting wars.


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Usually I'm all for "keep things up to date", but I'm not sure that's the right approach here, not because in this case it makes sense to use old tech, but because perhaps tech is not even the right idea at all.  Something of this nature is quite unique.  It will be almost never used (hopefully without the almost qualifier), needs to be 100% reliable, and 100% unhackable.  The risk is too great to allow even a small chance of a mistake.  There have already been too many close calls as it is.  I'm not sure exactly what the whole process here was for what would happen if they had to launch, or what the floppy was used for, but I feel like they could have done away with that completely.  If you have tech you need to keep it up to date but you don't always even need tech to begin with.

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2 minutes ago, Ryan_Vickers said:

what the floppy was used for

smoke and mirrors. They did psychological tests on men in both USSR and USA and found most people are unwilling to press a launch button. I bet the floppys are just part of a bunch of fake stuff they do. The fact that we know about it and MSM has been mocking it tells me its fake.

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did they just challenge people to hack the system that controls whether nuclear missiles are to be launched?

ummmm... I don't think that was a very smart idea.


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When something has been established, proven, and reliable for decades it takes any governing agency an eternity to adopt a new methodology. It’s 2019, dot matrix printers and fax machines are still commonplace due to regulatory restrictions set by the government. 

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