Project Treble – A New Paradigm in Android Security Architecture by Google

Android Oreo

With #AndroidOreo or Simply #Android O, #Google will shake up the Android Security architecture in a fundamental manner. This update, which includes #ProjectTreble integration will bring Android Security, which has suffered from lagging or no security updates at all, in the sense that it will bifurcate the software related to the OEM from those of the Operating System and Google can directly update the OS with patches, fixes, etc. directly, without much customisation being required from OEM or carrier (for locked network users).

This will bring Android Security architecture as close to iOS as possible, revolutionising the Android user’s security and protection, in a radical manner, and hopefully, forever. Android being an open architecture suffers from evolving threats and loop-holes that are vulnerable to be exploited by hackers and malware, unlike Apple that controls both, the hardware and software, keeping updates and fixes, easy to integrate and faster to roll out.

Project Treble Android Oreo
Description of Project Treble that comes bundles in Android Oro update and how it will change the OS Update and Cybersecurity architecture of Android Devices | Source: Footnote 6

As of now, android security suffers from un-escapable redundancies. Even market leaders like Samsung only offer 2 years of update and that too only on flagships. Google Pixel too does not extend this coverage for more than 3 years. Other OEMs are involved in blatant overlooking of the necessity of security updates as updates do not add to their bottom-lines, thus leaving the average Android user’s cybersecurity and safety in the limbo.

But hang on! This does not mean that you should be rushing to buy the latest phone with Oreo. Many of the current devices including the latest ones like the Samsung S8 are not compatible with Treble. Very few devices, which includes Pixel, are compatible with this architecture and one needs to ask the specific question when buying.

android-o-logo-1Nevertheless, this is an excellent response by #Google to an essential stigma attributed to Android phones. Apple products, on the other hand, come with almost 5 years of updates now, which makes the devices friendly for users with cybersecurity an essential concern (if it was a choice of course). These changes will take time to become critical though and till then iOS-based products will be the last word on cyber safety as blackberry too has adopted Android with its pros and cons.

Sources:

  1. “A Revolution in Custom ROMs: How Project Treble Makes Porting Android Oreo a 1 Day Job.” Xda-Developers (blog), November 24, 2017. https://www.xda-developers.com/how-project-treble-revolutionizes-custom-roms-android-oreo/.
  2. “How to Check If Your Android Phone Supports Project Treble « Android :: Gadget Hacks.” Accessed February 10, 2018. https://android.gadgethacks.com/how-to/check-if-your-android-phone-supports-project-treble-0181781/.
  3. “Project Treble Is the Most Important Android Update You’ve Never Heard of | TechRadar.” Accessed February 10, 2018. http://www.techradar.com/news/project-treble-is-the-most-important-android-update-youve-never-heard-of.
  4. “Project-Treble-before-and-after-e1511881174506.png (427×422).” Accessed February 10, 2018. https://cdn57.androidauthority.net/wp-content/uploads/2017/11/Project-Treble-before-and-after-e1511881174506.png.
  5. “Samsung Galaxy S8 & Galaxy S8+ Android Oreo Update Rolls Out Without Project Treble Support.” Accessed February 10, 2018. https://www.xda-developers.com/samsung-galaxy-s8-android-oreo-project-treble/.
  6. “Treble.” Android Open Source Project. Accessed February 10, 2018. https://source.android.com/devices/architecture/treble. [Image]
  7. “Understanding Project Treble and Future Android Updates.” Accessed February 10, 2018. https://www.androidauthority.com/project-treble-818225/.

 

Alarming shortages in India’s national ammunition stockpiles: A case of prolonged apathy

Indian defence procurement has consistently suffered from stocking issues arising from a mix of political priority and policy mismanagement since independence. However, it was only in March 2015 that the Comptroller and Auditor General’s (CAG) office released report based on audits done in 2013 that a nightmare was revealed quantitatively. Previous depositions had serially denied such conclusions by foreign observers and agencies. But CAGs observations have put an end to speculations in the public domain categorically.

Image result for cag defence report

CAG report tabled in the parliament in June 2017 revealed the state of affairs since the 2013 audit. This was a follow-up audit to the one done in 2013. The national auditor found that there has been no significant qualitative or quantitative improvement in the ammunition supplied by the Ordnance Factory Board (OFB). Majority of procurement cases which were initiated by the army (inside the purview of the OFB) were still pending.

Ammunition stockpiles are assessed on the basis of a threat perception, which is based on the fundamentals of equipment and technology in the hands of the enemy, and their overall military prowess. Thereafter, defence experts put their expertise to decide upon the ammunition required to compete with their forces from all possibilities in the time of war. The number thus obtained is called the War Wastage Reserve (WWR), calculated in the number of days the ammunition stockpile will last once conflict begins. The minimum number of defence stockpile that is to be held by the army is decided based on the number of days, domestic manufacturing units will take to reach production at critical levels.

Image result for defence manufacturing in india

 

WWR that is currently agreed upon stands at 40 days of intense war. It is broken down into 30 intense days and 30 normal days of combat. One intense day of combat is equal to 30 normal days of combat. The calculation is as follows:

WWR = 40 Intense days (30 Intense + 30 Normal; where 1 Intense = 3 Normal)

40 days are further broken down into:

  • MARL (Minimum Acceptable Risk Levels) = 20 Intense Days. This is the number below which procurement agencies will get the alarm to furbish supplies of particular equipment or ammunition.
  • A less than 10 days intense war stock is considered Critical

Following are the observation of the CAG briefly:

Ammunition

  • Out of the 152 types of ammunition analyzed only 31 or roughly 20% met the WWR criteria.
  • Although this is a 100% increase compared to inventories in 2013 (10%) audit, the increase is attributed mainly to the stocks of explosives and demolition items.
  • Critical ammunition related to Armoured Fighting Vehicles and Artillery meant for sustaining superior firepower were under critical levels (less than 10 days)
  • Percentage of Ammunition type above MARL has increased from 36% to 45%. High Calibre Ammunition stocks have gone up 10% to 28% with respect to MARL.
  • 40% of all ammunition accounted for were under ‘Critical’ levels.
  • An additional observation is that much of the high calibre ammunition is under critical levels.

Fuzes

Fuzes are the trigger mechanism installed over exploding ammunition such as artillery bombs, mortar and grenades. Fuze shortage persists at 83% reduced from 89% which is hardly any improvement given the time that has elapsed between the two reports.

  • 20.50 lakh fuzes are still at the Acceptance of Necessity stage.
  • OFBs have failed to supply the needed ammunition.

This is a devastating number because without fuzes only 17% of the total ammunition will be good for use in wartime making the situation very problematic (this does not cover the type of fuses with respect to each variety of ammunition). In the situation of a conflict, we are almost looking at an emergency import of fuses which will have more to it than just the increased costs of supplies bought in distress.

Training Ammunition

Related imageSummarily, out of the 24 types of ammunition that is available for training, a staggering 21 were below the 5 days mark. The ramifications are a restriction by the Army Head Quarter on use of ammunition in training, pitfalls of which are foreseeable.

Capital Procurement

 

Capital Procurements with respect to ammunition happens when any new ammunition or related equipment like fuze is procured. Electronic Fuzes for 130 and 155 MM Ammunitions were to be procured in this category. The last update was that Contract Negotiation Committee was yet to be finalized, and trials were under progress post completion of technical evaluation respectively for each of the calibre.

As of 2016-17, 86% of all ammunition requirements were being met by OFs. This is a clear indication of low levels of private sector participation. The current data produced by CAG shows slippages (demand raised by the army but not met by the OFs) have gone up to 95%. 30 out of total ammunition requested are falling under 50% shortfall. Despite the critical shortages, no accountability mechanism has been devised by the Board of Factories to fix deliverables.

These numbers are accompanied by a very high rate of RFR (Return for Rectification; factory QC conducts a 100% check of stock and the defected ones are sent for RFR). Percentage of return was as high as 20% to 100% in case of several ammunition and components.

The Indian Ordnance Factory Board, Kolkata consists of 41 ordnance factories and is the oldest and one of the largest industrial production units spread all across the nation. Along with private players, most of whom are at a nascent stage, it forms the backbone of military supplies, without which a war can never be fought, let alone won. Yet, it is one of the most neglected institutions of the country, a fact evidenced by India’s dubious distinction of being one of the largest importers of military equipment in the world. Present disposition at the centre has mobilized policy and funds to turn the momentum in the right direction by opening  doors for the private sector and foreign investment by loosening regulatory regime which was prohibitive, to say the least. However, the ground developments are still on paper, mostly due to the long gestation period that is typical for the defence sector.

Conclusion

India inherited 18 factories during independence from the British with rudimentary infrastructure, mostly used for overhauling and repair work. Earlier years, inspired by Nehruvian fundamentals, were marred by neglect. It was only after the debacle of 1961 in the India-Sino war, that the need of having a manufacturing infrastructure for military equipment was realized. This paid dividend in the 1972 war. Privatization began in 2001 but remained conservative. Meanwhile, advancement and up gradation have suffered due to lack of outlook and overall apathy.

The blame cannot entirely attitude to politicians and bureaucracy. Academia too has kept itself at distance from the concerns related to defence production. Research is a sore point in all discussions but even policy establishments and institutions (except perhaps those that are of domain expertise like the Institute of Defence Studies and Analysis) have remained blind to the topic of comparative defence capabilities and studies. The result is not merely the lack of serious progress, but rather, the absence of any long-term vision for upgrading the nation’s defence capabilities. The emergence of China as a regional adversary has only set the alarms off as loud as possible.

[A brief version of this article was published on Himanshu’s LinkedIn account]

Sources:

Bogra, Kabir. “Five Reasons Why Defence Production in India Will Take off.” http://www.livemint.com/, March 30, 2016. http://www.livemint.com/Opinion/ZdvIw7onhWZcY0KuL0WrzN/Five-reasons-why-defence-production-in-India-will-take-off.html.

Chauhan, Himanshu. “Loosing War Without A Fight: Sterile State of Military and Warfare Studies in India.” Defence Shala (blog), July 7, 2017. https://defenceshala.com/2017/07/07/loosing-war-without-a-fight-sterile-state-of-military-and-warfare-studies-in-india/.

“Dividing Lines – Contours Of India-China Conflict.” Accessed January 17, 2018. https://www.goodreads.com/work/best_book/21437123-dividing-lines—contours-of-india-china-conflict.

“Increase in Arms Transfers Driven by Demand in the Middle East and Asia, Says SIPRI | SIPRI.” Accessed January 17, 2018. https://www.sipri.org/media/press-release/2017/increase-arms-transfers-driven-demand-middle-east-and-asia-says-sipri.

“India Faces Severe Ammunition Shortage, Can Fight War for Only 20 Days: CAG – Times of India.” The Times of India. Accessed January 17, 2018. https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/India-faces-severe-ammunition-shortage-can-fight-war-for-only-20-days-CAG/articleshow/47209011.cms.

“India Says No Ammunition Shortage.” BBC News, April 10, 2012, sec. India. http://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-india-17661369.

“India’s Defence Production and Research – Need for Transformational up-Gradation.” Accessed January 17, 2018. http://www.vifindia.org/article/2012/february/06/India-s-Defence-Production-and-Research-Need-for-Transformational-up-gradation.

“Report No.15 of 2017 Compliance audit Union Government Army and Ordnance Factories Reports of Defence Services.pdf.” Accessed January 17, 2018. http://www.saiindia.gov.in/sites/default/files/audit_report_files/Report_No.15_of_2017_-_Compliance_audit_Union_Government_Army_and_Ordnance_Factories_Reports_of_Defence_Services.pdf.

Loosing War Without A Fight: Sterile State of Military and Warfare Studies in India

A profound yet least narrated change that democracy has brought to world politics is the shift of political power and decision making from the axis that was dominated by military personnel and war strategists to civilian domains. Post World War II, increasing number of political premiers have come with little or no formal military and war experience or understanding. A principle feature of democratic systems is the subordination of military under civilian control. This has resulted in the power plot being tilted towards the welfare state.

However, the significance of military and war in politics has not been underwhelmed. It is still an essential feature of International Relations (IR) and diplomacy. The latest disruption to global security, decentralized and ideology based extremism and terrorism has added a new chapter to what was earlier understood in the binaries of internal and foreign generated conflict.

An essential bridge between polity and military (also vital component of IR and geostrategic affairs) is the domain of Military History and War Studies; and the growing distance between purviews of civilian and military paradigms only add weight of their importance.

2-4

However, the focus of the Indian state has been blatantly opposed to record keeping, declassification and development of this field of knowledge. A recent paper by Shri PK Gautam (available here) reveals the poor state of affairs which has left a deep vacuum of information, resulting in ill informed state machinery/ politicians/diplomacy, poorly equipped military and security departments, frustrated academia and disillusioned public.

War studies and military history is a fluid nomenclature to a very broad multi and inter disciplinary field of knowledge that encompasses, to name a few, following subject:

  • Military craft, strategy and tactical knowledge
  • Policy, planning, logistics and operational scheme and case studies
  • Industrial and technical affairs
  • Civil and military diplomacy
  • Philosophical and cultural facets of war
  • Social, economic and individual factors of war and geopolitics
  • Historical and political dimension of war
  • Intelligence and covert assets

Traditional experts and beneficiaries on the subject have come from the military, diplomacy and IR. However, as geo-politics and strategic affairs have spun out in the last fifty years, there has been a strong realization that war and conflict to is a multi dimensional phenomenon. Most importantly, with privatization of defence production, innovation and advancement demands that industry is well aware of combat intricacies. The more they understand the customer and his environment, the more accurately can they pin point at gaps that can be filled, greatly aiding in product research and development.

A pre and post war sentiment analysis of border communities can help aid fill crucial trust gaps between local support and intelligence. Insouciant attitude towards public sentiments is something no democratic government can afford. Diluted public opinions towards national and geostrategic interests forms the backbone of internal security, acting as an antidote against corrosive elements and anti-national fringe groups. Diplomacy and foreign relations are enriched through exposure to historical records and reports which give deeper understanding of contemporary issues and accuracy in prediction. Academia and historic research is enriched with timely and prudent archive sharing and declassification.

Indian Military History

A textbook example of all of all of the above is the Sino-Indian conflict of 1961-62. After the war, for reason abundant, all official findings and narrative was made classified. The Brooks-Bhagat report was never tabled in the parliament. Even Unarmed Victory, a compilation of opinion and first hand letter account between Russell, Nehru, Khrushchev, Mao among others by Bertrand Russell was banned from India. What resulted in the absence of any meticulous report or corroborate-able official narrative is a plethora of sentimental and quasi academic books and articles, which hardly any value add to the relations and tensions that prevailed in the aftermath of the bloody defeat or subsequent escalations, including the current one embroiling Bhutan this day as well.

The same is almost as true for every other war or intervention that India has carried out, notes Gautam. He cites media reports alleging that in 1992, despite official narratives of ’62, ’65, and ’71 being prepared and signed by the then Defence Secretary N. N. Vohra, but was halted from publication due to the intervention by the Ministry of External Affairs.

Concurrent mess has many, but two broad aspects to it. First is the institutional framework that is governed by the Official Secrets Act, 1923 (first version came in 1904), a lingering colonial artefact, chartered by the ‘Raj’ to prevent shenanigans of the not so trustworthy subjects. Further fortification was done by the Civil Service Conduct Rules, 1964 which effectively prevents communication of any official document without express authorization. Trends percolate all the way to the bottom of the administrative pyramid taking various forms and shapes based on personalities and levels of discretion and with an almost pathological interdepartmental distrust, the final configuration shouldn’t come as a surprise.

There are no formal criteria for the declassification of documents marked secret or sensitive. Thereafter comes the whole issue of access to material that is classified and lies poorly organized in the national archives. The despotism inculcated by British has been systematically embraced by post independence India, keeping a matter of routine, a subject for discretion The Right to Information has not been able to make any substantial dent in the pillars and walls preventing structured flow of information.

It prima facie evident that the successive governments have given little or low priority to the subject. Every historiographical account has resounded the lackadaisical approach and apathetic state of affairs to bring forth any substantial reforms. Even the incumbent regime has more or less continued with the legacy despite ample chest thumping to change the global narrative of India.

Even if we digress to the matter of manuscripts and other ancient documents, there is little change in the general attitudes. The authors personal experience in Bhutan has been that there are numerous ancient Samskrit scripts lying in Bhutanese national archives and monasteries; many of them have been lost from India forever. The government of Bhutan owing to the ‘more than pleasant’ relations will be willing to share the riches of shared textualised philosophies and more with alacrity. But there has been no attempt till date to access these treasures. Indian government has not laid claim to scripts taken away by the colonial powers till date either. The impassivity is again rampant in the context to policing and internal security as well.

Indian Soldiers in Haifa

Famously quoted by George Santayana – “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” This reality has hit India multiple times since independence where we lost territory multiple times and then had to shed precious blood to reclaim the same. The same mistakes are perhaps at the edge of repetition due to present escalation of tensions in the Indo-China relationships.

Despite several attempts to chapterise war and military literature, it can be said without reservations that all such attempts lack depth due to lack of access to formal account and official documents. Without questioning the sincerity invoked in these personal attempts, it is my humble submission that they are not in any manner a viable alternative to an absent institutional mechanism for developing understanding and scholarship of warfare and military affairs.  As cited by Gautam, a notable attempt in the correct direction is The Indian Foreign Affairs Journal: A Quarterly of the Association of India Diplomats which has started to archive oral diplomatic history. This is a noteworthy attempt worthy of emulation by other institutions as well. Gautam’s has also provided several immediate and long term actionable in his work which deserve the attention of government as well as anyone engaged in the task of national building.

Sources and References:

Gautam, P.K. “The Need for Renaissance of Military History and Modern War Studies in India | Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses.” Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses, no. IDSA Occassional Paper No. 21. Accessed July 7, 2017. http://www.idsa.in/occasionalpapers/TheNeedforRenaissanceofMilitaryHistoryandModernWarStudiesinIndia.

Jaideep Chanda. “A  Historiographic Analysis  of the Military History of  Post-Independent India.” Centre for Land Warfare Studies (CLAWS), no. MANEKSHAW PAPER No. 64, 2016 (n.d.).

Jaideep, Prabhu. “Declassified CIA Documents: India’s Lackadaisical Approach to Files Bodes Ill for National Security.” First Post. Accessed July 7, 2017. http://www.firstpost.com/world/declassified-cia-documents-indias-lackadaisical-approach-to-files-bodes-ill-for-national-security-3226722.html.

Manning, Scott. “What Is the Value of Studying Military History?” Historian on the Warpath, October 15, 2009. http://www.scottmanning.com/content/what-is-the-value-of-studying-military-history/.

“Official Secrets Act Versus Right to Information Act.” IASPOINT. Accessed July 7, 2017. https://iaspoint.gktoday.in/current/official-secrets-act-versus-right-to-information-act/.

Raman, Anuradha. “The Case for Full Disclosure.” The Hindu. Accessed July 7, 2017. http://www.thehindu.com/opinion/op-ed/The-case-for-full-disclosure/article14022827.ece. n.d.