Saturday, June 25, 2005
Red Queen Effect and Terrorism
As quickly as a new defense is found, and new attack evolves - A nice piece from "Schneier on Security"
This Newsweek article on the insurgents in Iraq includes an interesting paragraph on how they adapt to American military defenses.
Counterinsurgency experts are alarmed by how fast the other side's tactics can evolve. A particularly worrisome case is the ongoing arms race over improvised explosive devices. The first IEDs were triggered by wires and batteries; insurgents waited on the roadside and detonated the primitive devices when Americans drove past. After a while, U.S. troops got good at spotting and killing the triggermen when bombs went off. That led the insurgents to replace their wires with radio signals. The Pentagon, at frantic speed and high cost, equipped its forces with jammers to block those signals, accomplishing the task this spring. The insurgents adapted swiftly by sending a continuous radio signal to the IED; when the signal stops or is jammed, the bomb explodes. The solution? Track the signal and make sure it continues. Problem: the signal is encrypted. Now the Americans are grappling with the task of cracking the encryption on the fly and mimicking it—so far, without success. Still, IED casualties have dropped, since U.S. troops can break the signal and trigger the device before a convoy passes. That's the good news. The bad news is what the new triggering system says about the insurgents' technical abilities.
The CIA is worried that Iraq is becoming a far more effective breeding ground for terrorists than Afghanistan ever was, because they get real-world experience with urban terrorist-style combat.
Edited to add: Link fixed.