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Chacham's Journal: News: Egypt fixing bugs and coding for Israel's defense.

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Ma'ariv International Edition has an op-ed entitled "The Arrow scandal".

Things you should know. Ma'ariv is one of Israel's daily papers with the largest distribution (IIRC, it is within the top two). Op-Ed's are written from all over the political spectrum, and their allegiance is not stated. Arrow is a system developed by US and Israel to protect Israel (and eventually the US elswhere) from the Arab states. Egypt is considered Israel's main enemy army-wise (even though they have a peace treaty). That is, should a war break out, G-d forbid, Egypt would be at the front of the Arab armies. (As opposed to terorists which are mostly funded from Syria and Iran.) There is more to the article, but it deals with a completely separate issue.

This may be of interest here, simply because it involves programming from possibly hostile states.

For months the most expensive and most important Israeli defense project of the last decade, the Arrow missile's operating system, was exposed to Egyptian eyes. IBM computer engineers in Cairo helped their Israeli colleagues detect and correct bugs in one of the Israeli defense establishment's most sensitive software programs. The best-case scenario is that all of the information has already been exposed to Egyptian intelligence. The worst-case scenario is that it was also exposed to hostile ele
Ben Kaspit

Khaled Sharif has an important role in protecting Israel from the threat of ballistic missiles. Sharif is a computer technician employed by the IBM Cairo office. In the past months Sharif and other Egyptian workers have been corresponding with their colleagues at the Israeli IBM office. Their task is to detect and correct bugs in the MOTIF computer program, on which the computerized system of the Arrow missile is programmed.

No, that is no mistake. Egyptian computer engineers in Cairo work with Israeli computer engineers in Tel Aviv on the most expensive and most important defense project Israel has developed in the last decade - the "Wall" project, that operates the Arrow missile batteries. If it weren't sad it could be funny.

The Arrow is the world's only operative ABM (Anti Ballistic Missile). It is a joint US-Israeli project, with Israel developing the heart of the system, the ultra-sensitive "Green Pine" radar system, which gives the missile the capability to track and intercept incoming ballistic missiles. It is the free world's only current viable defense against such threats.

Imagine U.S. scientists in the 1940s working on the first nuclear bomb and corresponding for that purpose with their colleagues in Moscow. The affair was discovered through the intervention of Maariv, that transferred the information to the defense establishment. Since then, for the past weeks, special teams of experts have been closely reviewing all of the computerized systems, including the Arrow, to clean, detect and neutralize bugs or "Trojan horses" that may have been implanted in them by hostile elements. It should be stressed that no damages or hostile implantations of bugs into the system have been discovered to date. Even if they were discovered we would probably not be allowed to publish it. Nor do we know of any legal violations, except for the violation of common sense.

A Trojan horse

Israel and Egypt have peaceful relations. It is important to encourage trade between them, but a clear red line should be drawn when it comes to such sensitive security systems. Egyptian intelligence is known for its efficiency and creativity. It surely has the means to find out what is happening at computer companies located in Cairo. That is how intelligence organizations work all over the world. The working assumption has to be that everything that passed between Tel Aviv and Cairo has been revealed to the Egyptian intelligence, at the very least. The IDF's sophisticated combat systems, including the Arrow, are completely computerized. The Air Force is computerized to the gills. Everything flashes on computers screens. In the old days, to shoot, you had to pull a trigger. Today, more and more, you press "send" on a computer to release a missile or a guided bomb or to operate a sophisticated radar system. When F-16s fly over Ein Saheb in Syria the Air Force commander sits in his Tel Aviv bureau and e-mails them a photo of the target area marked with a red arrow. The pilot adjusts the photo to the view he sees, collates the arrows and presses "send". One little bug implanted into the system would destroy the process. When it comes to the Arrow the implications are more serious: a computer engineer can introduce a Trojan horse into the operating system planned to be activated during real time use of the system and cause its collapse. It is simple, effective and fatal. According to that scenario, at the moment of truth, when ballistic missiles are on their way to Israel the "wall" system will be activated and then collapse. As a result the actual Arrow missiles will be diverted from their course, or blow up in the air, or just dally. It sounds like a completely fantastical scenario, but that scenario has been placed on more then a few desks in Israel in the last weeks.

Maariv has documents that attest to the tight, nearly daily contact between Israeli IBM engineers and the company's Egyptian office to find bugs in the Arrow operating system. Moreover: during our examination we learned that the next generation of the MOTIF software is being developed in Cairo. From there it was supposed to be sent here, to undergo some further adjustments and replace the current missile system that is supposed to defend Israeli skies from surprise missile attacks.

A work stop in Egypt

The story is simple. Computer software is Anglophonic. IBM's central Middle East office is in Cairo, and it is the office in charge of regionalizing into Arabic and Hebrew. That is all fine and well until it comes to such sensitive programs. For now, the blunder has been fixed, the route has been blocked and there is no more contact between Tel Aviv and Cairo. Better late than never. Nobody is blaming Egypt of anything. They say there are excellent computer engineers in Cairo who managed to solve many of the project's flaws. IBM says nothing physical was transferred between the offices, it was only electronic correspondences. Other sources inside the system cite codes, bugs and valuable information that flowed between those two points for a long time. Not to speak of the next generation system that was developed there. The defense establishment and the Air Force decline to comment on the affair. A senior Air Force officer approved its details and says everything is under control and examination now, under the supervision of a special team created for the purpose.

IBM spokesman Yossi Shoval issued the following statement: "IBM has a large number of development laboratories in the world (including in Israel) that serve its clients throughout the world, develop products and handle problems and customer support. In a comprehensive examination we conducted we found there was no exposure of the specific software that was employed in the project in question and in the other IBM software packages operating in the defense establishment. We especially wish to emphasize that no IBM software package provided to the defense establishment was exposed to the infiltration of unwanted and unplanned elements. We want to emphasize that our activities are fully coordinated with the defense establishment".

Off the record, IBM officials confirmed the story. They say everyone in the defense establishment who needed to know the Egyptian office was handling bugs knew. They stressed no damage had been detected. Meanwhile, the defense system closed the strange breach.

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News: Egypt fixing bugs and coding for Israel's defense.

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