Submarine Command System


A press release from BAE Systems announced the installation of the Submarine Command System Next Generation (SMCS NG) on twelve nuclear submarines of the Royal Navy, effectively ending the conversion of the seven Trafalgar-class submarines, four Vanguard-class submarines and one Swiftsure class[1].

The new command system is based on COTS hardware and software products. It uses mainstream PCs and Windows as supporting components. All computers are connected with on a LAN by an Ethernet network using fiber-optic cable. According to The Register, the system will mostly be based on Windows XP[2] although in was initially decided it would be based on Windows 2000.

The role of this system is to store and compile data from various sensors in order to present tactical information for the leadership. It also controls the weaponry:

SMCS NG is designed to handle the growing volume of information available in modern nuclear submarines and to control the sophisticated underwater weapons carried now and in the future. Its core capability is the assimilation of sensor data and the compilation and display of a real time tactical picture to the Submarine Command Team[3].

The SMCS NG system is the descendant of the previous SMCS system that was proposed back in 1983, when the U.K decided to build a new command system for the then-new Trident class. Before, all electronics were custom built by Ferranti. The SMCS would use COTS material to minimize the costs and become fewer dependants on one company. The architecture of the command system was modular and was written in Ada 83. The core of the system contains an Input/Output computer node, a computer that process data from the sensors and weapons systems. There is also the central node, which is used for processing all the data. Each of the central nodes are duplicated to provide of fault-tolerance, with each being dual modular tolerant, which means that hardware components are working in parallel in case one becomes defective. The dual central nodes are connected to each other and they are also connected to Multi Function Consoles, a Main Tactical Display and two Remote Terminals, which provide the Human Computer Interface. The first phase of the project was to install the SMCS on the Vanguard class submarines.

In 1990, it was decided to extend the SMCS to other submarine classes and that the new command system would use UNIX as its base operating system. Because of the Ada architecture, problems arose when the technicians tried to map the SMCS to run-time processes of UNIX. Solaris and SPARC machines were finally selected for Multi Function Consoles. The central nodes kept their original architecture in Ada.

SMCS Multi Function Monitor in a Vanguard Class Submarine
SMCS Multi Function Monitor in a Vanguard Class Submarine

In 2000, the project was completely own by BAE Systems and the move from SPARC computers to PCs. The switch for the operating system was more difficult, as management preferred Windows while the engineers promoted the use of variants of UNIX such as BSD, Linux or Solaris. The main argument for the engineers was that with UNIX, it would be possible to remove all the extra code unneeded for the submarines operations, thus making it more secure. However, the management point of view prevailed and thus was created the “Windows for Warships” label.

Windows was chosen even after the USS Yorktown accident in 1997, in the US. The ship was crippled after the sysadmin entered invalid data into the database thought the Remote Database Manager.[4]

Insert any jokes about Windows controlling nuclear subs into the comments. Thank you.

Clippy Launch Warning Blue Screen of Death

See also:

SMCS“, AllExperts, (accessed on December 17, 2008)

Submarine Command System (SMCS)“, Ultra Electronics, (accessed on December 17, 2008)

Operating Systems Contracts, Trusted Software?“, Richard Smedly, Linux Format, March 2005, (accessed on December 17, 2008)

Development Drivers in Modern Multi-function Consoles and Cabinets“, Armed Forces International, (accessed on December 17, 2008)

[1] “Royal Navy’s Submarine Command System Installation Programme Completes Ahead of Time”, BAE Systems, December 15, 2008, (accessed on December 17, 2008)

[2] “Royal Navy completes Windows for SubmarinesTM rollout”, Lewis Page, The Register, December 16, 2008, (accessed on December 17, 2008)

[3] Ibid.

[4] “Operating Systems Contracts, Trusted Software? “, Richard Smedly, Linux Format, March 2005, p.72

High-tech Cheating


One man and a woman, Steve Lee and Rong Yang, were convicted last week to eight months of prison after helping two Chinese men cheat their immigration exams, according to a news report from the Metropolitan Police Service[1].  The duo was monitoring the examination from a vehicle outside the building with laptops, transmitters and other equipment.

“Lee and Yang were clearly involved in a sophisticated operation using some of the best surveillance technology available worth thousands of pounds. When we first arrived at the scene it was very confusing as to what exactly was going on.”

It’s hard to tell what was the “best surveillance technology available worth thousands of pounds” since no detailed equipment list was given, but we might expect this to be largely exaggerated. The report states that Zhuang, the examinee, was given “tiny buttonhole cameras sewn in, a microphone and a small ear piece”. With this equipment, the information was transmitted back to Lee and Yang, who told Zhuang the answers to the questions.

“Best surveillance equipment” found into the car
“Best surveillance equipment” found into the car

I decided to look the equipment needed to conduct such an operation. The following material can be found without looking very hard on the net:

· Wireless Button Camera – £226.37

· Wireless Microphone – £133.13

· Wireless Earpiece – £134

· Laptop – £429

· Wireless Router – £51

Total: £973.5

Unless I’m forgetting something worth more than £1000, this is far from being “thousands of pounds”. And I’m quite sure you can get these items cheaper if you look on eBay.

Anyway, the cheaters were caught after a member of the public reported seeing them sitting Lee and Yang in a silver BMW with wires running from under the hood to the inside the car.

According to Sergeant Dominic Washington who first responded to the call from the public, said:

“However, working with colleagues from across the borough and the Met we believe that we have uncovered an established criminal enterprise that may be in operation in other parts of the country.”

No, I don’t think so… but this might give ideas to the others. And why were there wires under the car?

[1] “Two convicted for immigration test scam”, Metropolitan Police Service, November 14, 2008, (accessed on November 17, 2008)

Cybercrime Rose by 9% in Britain


The BBC reports that cybercrime rose by 9% in Britain[1]. This is according to Online Identity firm Garlik which release its 2008 Cybercrime Report. The report contains interesting statistics. Among others, identity theft drop from 92 000 offenses in 2006 to 84 700, a 8% drop[2]. Financial fraud rose by 24% and is expected to increase for 2008-2009, mainly due to the financial crisis going on. The report cites the leaked letter from the Home Office indicating a possible rise in crime[3]. This is really no surprise.

Always according to the report, the top three stolen documents for identity theft were non-UK passports, utility bills and UK passports[4]. As for financial cybercrimes, losses from UK victims amounted to £535million (1 billion $CAN, 869 millions $US), up 25% from 2006. The reports further states this interesting bit of information:

“… personal details and identity information are traded online with the 15 Research conducted by Garlik’s team of researchers investigating the presence of illegal trading networks on the Internet, number of trading networks more than doubling (from 27 to 57) over the past nine months. In a typical day, around 520 individual information traders are identified with 19,217 traders being identified this year. Of these, around 700 are ‘long term’ traders …[5]

Cybercrime in the UK rose by more than 9% in 2007
Cybercrime in the UK rose by more than 9% in 2007

That’s 57 trading network and around 20 000 traders, which, at least for me, is a big number. But the report doesn’t specify how those traders were identified though. The 700 “long-term” traders are seemed to be identified only with their online alias. Therefore if the “20 000 traders” is counted using aliases, this number might be higher than the actual number of traders.

The reports do not goes into great details on how the criminals get the information, but it does mention Trojans, phishing and SQL injections as a way to retrieve the information. As for the damage caused by these for UK companies, 830 000 companies report a computer-related incident last year. Viruses accounted for 21% of those incidents and are on the decline.

Fortunately, the report also mention lack of data protection from the government but fail to give any number, since it’s outside the scope of the document. But shouldn’t it be considered so? Shouldn’t this be considered as criminal negligence? After all, lost data impact lives and can lead to disaster for the victims of this negligence…

Garlik also describe interesting statistics about online harassment. The complete report can be found here:

[1] “Cybercrime wave sweeping Britain”, BBC News, October 30, 2008, (accessed October 30, 2008)

[2] “UK Cybercrime Report 2008”, Stefan Fafinski, Neshan Minassian, Garlik, September 2008, p. 5

[3] “Leaked letter predicts crime rise”, BBC News, September 1, 2008, (accessed on October 30, 2008)

[4] “UK Cybercrime Report 2008”, Stefan Fafinski, Neshan Minassian, Garlik, September 2008, p. 12

[5] Idem, p. 16