Published: Sat, January 13, 2018
World | By Melba Underwood

Cybersecurity of Nuclear Weapons Systems: Threats, Vulnerabilities and Consequences

Cybersecurity of Nuclear Weapons Systems: Threats, Vulnerabilities and Consequences

The study, conducted by academics at Chatham House revealed that nukes, including UK's Trident warheads, were at risk because they were developed before the advent of cyber warfare. Although some information is publicly available on USA weapons systems, there is very little information regarding other nuclear weapons states.

Widespread reliance on digital systems in the military means communications between commanders, positioning data, and the supply and logistics chain could all be vulnerable.

As well as threats from hostile states, there is also risk from highly skilled criminal gangs, acting on their own, or selling their cyber abilities to terrorists.

Mr Wolfsthal told the newspaper that he had seen a copy of the final draft of the NPR which proposed the creation of the new weapon as well as revising the terms of use for weapons which would include attacks against national infrastructure or nuclear sites.

It also urged governments to be open about their discussions, adding: 'After all, it is the public that will pay the ultimate price for complacency regarding cyber-security of nuclear weapons systems'.

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An activist with a mask of Kim Jong Un and another with a mask of Trump march with a model of a nuclear rocket in Berlin

While the researchers do not claim that emerging technologies are the primary risk to consider in the nuclear field, they argue that although key risk areas have existed for a long time, new technology has exacerbated these risks.

Experts warned cyberattacks could manipulate data, scramble communications and dupe commanders in a myriad of ways either by hacking systems or planting malware.

As an example of what is possible, the research paper cited a Washington Post report published in March 2017 that said the U.S. had infiltrated parts of North Korea's missile systems and caused test failures. The silos of United States nuclear-tipped Minuteman intercontinental ballistic missiles "are believed to be particularly vulnerable to cyber attacks". The paper also cites incidents in Moldova, Georgia and Belgium as potential signs terror groups could be interested in nuclear materials.

Threats, Vulnerabilities and Consequences' report, put together by think-tank Chatham House, warns that the likelihood of attempted cyber attacks on nuclear weapons systems is "relatively high and increasing", but notes that the potentially-devastating problem has so-far received "scant attention".

Russian President Vladimir Putin has said that whoever controls artificial intelligence in future will "control the world".

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