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Army eBook Targets Apple Users

by Matt Cox on March 27, 2013

The U.S. Army just released its first eBook for combat leaders, but it’s only available to iPad users for now.

 The Combat Studies Institute at Fort Leavenworth, Kan., recently completed the interactive version of “Vanguard of Valor: Small Unit Actions in Afghanistan.” Originally published in hardcopy a year ago, this new Apple iBook format presents eight accounts of combat actions in Afghanistan using text, 3D digital terrain views, videos, and interactive tools such as maps and charts.

Currently the new eBook can only be downloaded onto the iPad, but CSI officials are working on a version for Android-based devices.

“This was to some degree a pilot project for us,” said Don Wright, chief of Research and Publications at CSI. “Can we do it? How long does it take? What’s the reaction with in the Army from solders and commanders? We are still sifting through all that now.”

CSI began looking for ways to produce interactive pubs last year, and decided on Apple’s iBooks Author application since it provided a free template for combining text, video and graphics into an appealing packaging, Wright said.

 “It is quite easy to make a book into a PDF; it’s quite different to make it interactive,” Wright said, describing the six-month effort. “Another reason we went with Apple … was we know that at least lots of officers have their own personal iPads, and they use them on a regular basis when they are students at command and general staff college and the captains course. We know this because we are hearing directly from their instructors.”

The original book is 206 pages, and the new interactive version is 375 megabytes, Wright said. “We compressed a lot of the media, so it didn’t take a lot of space on an individual’s iPad and was relatively quick to download,” he said.

CSI’s eBook is another step toward the senior leadership’s goal of searching for ways to make training and instruction more interactive. The Army launched an initiative a couple of years ago to issue smart phones to every soldier but such a large-scale effort has proven to be both technically and fiscally challenging, Army officials maintain.

Offering free eBooks and other interactive tools that soldiers can download may be a more logical first step, Wright said.
“This is the kind of thing soldiers have been asking for,” he said. “This is what they expect now.”

CSI officials hope to have an Android version of the eBook out by the end of the year and plan to make other books interactive as well, Wright said.

So far, the eBook “just went over 2,500 downloads, and it has been out a couple of weeks now,” Wright said.

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{ 28 comments… read them below or add one }

USS ENTERPRISE March 27, 2013 at 9:11 pm

Wow. The US army has a book writing department! I just wonder how many soldiers are using Angry Birds on those pads……

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USS ENTERPRISE March 28, 2013 at 4:36 pm

Okay, for everyone who downrated my comment, just know that it was a joke. No need to get worked up. Besides, Angry Birds is kinda like long range artillery. NO NEED TO DOWN RATE THIS COMMENT EITHER.

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blight_ March 27, 2013 at 11:18 pm
oblatt March 28, 2013 at 12:44 am

It must be demoralizing for the rearguard of defeat in Afghanistan to have to read books with titles like vanguard of valor.

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jon doey March 28, 2013 at 9:40 am

lol – i love it…pretty soon the military will have BYOD for everyone!
bring on cyber 911!
brb – gonna go make some popcorn.

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Jackson March 28, 2013 at 2:04 pm

What an outstanding conceptual product aimed at our digital generation of soldiers. Well done!!

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J4rh34d March 28, 2013 at 6:56 pm

iPads are made where? Shouldn't we have a more secure platform?

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USS ENTERPRISE March 28, 2013 at 8:07 pm

Yes, Ipads are made in China. But the actual programming is done by software engineers at Apple. I agree that there is a risk for some espionage, but its kinda hard to know which iPads are going to the people, and which are going to the soldier.

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blight_ March 28, 2013 at 10:06 pm

Unless there's something Mysterious hiding out in the ARM chips between when the engineers tape them out and they exit the factory, or the motherboards are laid out with extra traces that escape detection by Apple. Conceivably Apple could do final QC by randomly X-raying a few production units just to make sure the PRC doesn't sneak anything in.

Or have one company do final assembly, and a different one do the boxing up of machines in their retail machines.

There's a trick you can do: ship iPads in bulk to the US, employ a robot or prison labor to put the ipad in the box with the charger cables and manual, slap on a Made in USA sticker.

God bless America!

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USS ENTERPRISE March 28, 2013 at 11:17 pm

Yeah, honestly, I don't believe the bruh-ha-ha about China making everything. I mean, I know it is possible, and maybe even true, but I find it very, uh, odd. I mean now we have a Communist country making everything. And the world hasn't fallen over yet. And I am pretty sure Steve Jobs and that Wozniak guy knew what they were doing; current management of Apple can't be to obtuse. Also, I am know that the people out there that custom mod iPads and tablets would kinda notice an unnecessary chip connected to sensitive material. Finally, in the "sweatshops" of China, could the laborers there have the technical expertise to implant some weird chip? I mean Apple inspectors would notice.

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blight_ March 29, 2013 at 8:20 am

(Disclosure: Not an electrical engineer).

Chances are they'll use machines to solder the chips on. It takes a genius like Wozniak to hand-solder so well that it cannot be replicated in mass production.

Basically upstream of the PCB will be a pinout describing every chip, its location and the traces. I imagine everything that requires a BGA goes on first. Align chip to PCB, apply heat gun, melt chip on. (Or align chips, bake the board, melt the chips on). Push downstream to things that are soldered and cables that are connected together.

Apple could detect PCB with extra traces, suggestive of extra chips. Apple could detect extra chips on the board, or simply leave no room for additional chips and thus you can't "sneak" anything on.

You can X-ray a finished i-device and look for production defects, and similarly look for extra chips. Or at the factories making each chip you x-ray and look for deviations from spec. Or you have a testbed and test a few of each chip.

The scariest threat would be changes to the ARM chips, or hardware level backdoors. The other possibility is firmware changes in read-only memory, or exploits in the operating system.

Of course this goes both ways. If Apple puts in backdoors for the US government…

blight_ March 29, 2013 at 12:16 pm

"Also, I am know that the people out there that custom mod iPads and tablets would kinda notice an unnecessary chip connected to sensitive material. Finally, in the "sweatshops" of China, could the laborers there have the technical expertise to implant some weird chip? I mean Apple inspectors would notice."

Agreed. But the laborers would have the expertise to simply switch chip A for chip B, but ensuring only the iPads you know are going to the army evade quality control and get to their destination would be tough. Adding additional chips is another can of worms.

I imagine the optimal way to do it is to infiltrate the supply chain as far upstream as possible (or god forbid, the design process). It would be easier to design an app that spoofs as an Army one but delivers a rootkit and avoid trying to infiltrate the manufacturing process altogether.

Rick March 29, 2013 at 2:41 pm

Why would they bother to target only iPads that are going to the military? Do you think that the pad belonging to a scientist working at Los Alamos or the CEO of a fortune 500 company or even just to a low level IT guy or secretary working for one of these people will have nothing that interests the Chinese government? It would be a massive flood of data to work through, but that is exactly why data-mining exists.

In purely physical terms, it would be much easier to mass produce the chips (which are also made in China by Chinese) install them in everything and then just switch on only the ones you want to screen. The same sort of software that lets Microsoft know that your particular computer is licensed for and running just this one particular version of windows would work for the purpose.

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USS ENTERPRISE March 29, 2013 at 3:28 pm

Eh, well that is true, you can add such a chip. But once again, you have to consider what effects such a chip would have on an iPad. Also, the chip would have to have some programming that can differentiate between a high-scoring Angry Birds game and a Top Secret document. That kind of technology is still a few years away, at best. The only other option is to have every single iPad be manually monitored. And, even with China's colossal population, I doubt they can scrap up enough people for such a tall order. Finally, Apple knows what kind of flak it would get if it was found that the Chinese were implementing bugs into their devices. I am confident that Apple pulls random iPads from stores and scans them. Also, if you were to, say, break your iPad, and you gave it to Apple to fix, they would notice a weird computer chip inside. And then there would be a massive investigation, and so forth. So yes, China can put a chip into a computer, but its hardly practical, at least for now. It would be easier and quicker to just get iPad users to download a virus via a Trojan on the App Store.
Really, if the government is worried about cyber-hacking (which they should, considering that much of modern military weapons are designed on computers, no blueprints) then why not create a completely separated, isolated network. Only government manufactured tech can connect to the network, and of course you have all your regular pass codes. It would be like having the government own its own private Internet. That, I think, should be the plan.

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blight_ March 29, 2013 at 4:01 pm

Problem two is that a good network admin is going to notice lots of outgoing traffic to the same IP addresses, or if the traffic is going through anonymizers. If I see iPads trying to use the Tor network to dump tons of data it would be a signal to me that something fishy is going on.

If the government had an inkling of some kind of automated worm, they could set out a honeypot and see which iPads start transmitting, but it'd requiring knowing beforehand what triggers were needed and that there was a penetration in the first place.

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USS ENTERPRISE March 29, 2013 at 11:18 am

I doubt that these programs that the US want to add have an easy to find flaw. Plus, Chinese people are smart, but they aren't working the factory lines.

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blight_ March 29, 2013 at 12:13 pm

"Chinese people are smart, but they aren't working the factory lines."

I'm sure you mis-spoke, but the entire Foxconn assembly line is Chinese people. Every iProduct is assembled in China (and undoubtedly, so is almost every personal computer here in the US). Could you clarify?

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USS ENTERPRISE March 29, 2013 at 1:20 pm

Okay. What I meant was that the "wonder" Chinese people, the ones that did Calculus in 4th grade and whatnot, are not working the lines. The Chinese people working the lines aren't part of the Asian smart stereotype. I am not saying they are dumb, but they aren't the geniuses that are associated with China. Literacy rate in China is roughly 92%. The US has a 99% literacy rate.

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USS ENTERPRISE March 29, 2013 at 1:23 pm

Yeah, I was thinking that someone my switch out the circuit chips before workers could incorporate them into iPads. But the thing is that then the processing power of the iPad is compromised. iPads are designed with rules and tolerances; adding a chinese/foreign chip into an otherwise American designed product without changing anything else is simply not possible.

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USS ENTERPRISE March 29, 2013 at 1:24 pm

A bug that is also an app would be like a Trojan horse. But I am sure that the programs that will be on iPads will mostly be made by friendly programmers.

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blight_ March 29, 2013 at 3:59 pm

Sure, but what's the expertise level required to switch chips? It's like Oak Ridge during the Manhattan project, where trained technicians outperformed PhD's in the relatively menial task of uranium enrichment. There's an upper limit to theoretical skills and how they apply to physical skills. In general, the guys you send in to plant bad chips aren't the same guys who are sitting back and designing them.

The other problem might be if some Evil-Doers at the PRC set up shop in Taiwan, have TSMC fab their chips and have them enter the supply chain. It's not like TSMC is particularly curious, they'll just fab what you give them.

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Restore Palestine March 29, 2013 at 7:52 pm

BS ENTERPRISE

I don't know the literacy rate in China, but the literacy rate in America is not 99%. Many blacks, whites and Latinos cannot read or white basic English (or Spanish for that matter).

I do remember reading something about literacy rate for Chinese males in 2011 or 2012. I think it was in the 96% to 98% range.

Nice BS from you though, as usual.

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USS ENTERPRISE March 29, 2013 at 6:23 pm

My comment was deleted. Oh spiffing. Anyways, overall, it is possible that China is conducting a mission to add bugs in i-devices, but it is HIGHLY unlikely. I mean, Apple is currently doing well, and they use i-Devices. Also, such an operation would be costly. It would be hard for China to hide something like this. It would take a lot. Overall though, I say that Apple bring everything back to the US, so that such an eventuality could never happen. Otherwise, Apple might get baked, and turned into an Apple pie.

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payday plus April 8, 2013 at 4:53 am
USS ENTERPRISE March 30, 2013 at 12:06 am

You sir, are a racist person. You want me to prove myself, okay. Links: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Literacy_rates https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-worl
So shut up and go back to being useless human away from this site.

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Restore Palestine March 30, 2013 at 1:15 am

You are quoting the CIA? the agency that claimed there's WMD in Iraq in 2003, and Osama bin Laden died in 2005? HaHa. Very authoritative source indeed, BS ENTERPRISE.

You might as well quote yourself next time.

BTW, you've already proved yourself to be a brainless full-time BS'er and idiot. No further proof necessary.

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USS ENTERPRISE March 30, 2013 at 11:11 am

Oh for gods sake. CIA also operated the SR-71. And well, enough said.

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