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Trident and Nuclear Weapons Hacking
US/UK Trident: A Hackable Doomsday Machine?
Earlier this year we learned that in June 2016, an unarmed Trident nuclear missile launched from a British submarine off the coast of Florida targeting a point in the south Atlantic instead turned around and headed for Georgia, and had to be destroyed in mid-flight. In our coverage of the incident, we wondered whether "the mishap" may have been caused by a hack. (see "Trident Malfunction and Hacking")
Consider that the recent WannaCry worm infected 300,000 computer systems in 160 countries, and weeks later we still don't know who did it. If such a worm were able to infect defense computers in several nuclear powers, and trigger a full-blown nuclear exchange wiping out civilization, it could be that the surviving remnants would never know how or why it happened. It may be hard to consider such an absurd and meaningless annihilation of everything we hold dear in our world, but the scenario is not impossible.
On May 31, British American Security Information Council released a major in-depth and detailed survey of the vulnerabilities of Britain's Trident nuclear force to hacking:
Hacking UK Trident: A Growing Threat (View/download PDF) Some excerpts:
- "A cyber-attack may target the submarine, command and control, or the missile launch system. It can attempt to disrupt or change launch coordinates to divert the original course of the missile, or to disrupt or neutralize the warheads themselves...
- "To imagine that critical digital systems at the heart of nuclear weapon systems are somehow immune or can be confidently protected by dedicated teams of network managers is to be irresponsibly complacent. When states invest hundreds of billions of dollars in offensive nuclear weapon systems, the incentives are there amongst adversaries to develop capabilities that could neutralize that threat."
Note the report's remarks regarding the June 2016 incident: "The failure could have several explanations... It was also consistent with the injection of malware into the failing component or into the system transmitting telemetry data from the missile. In other words, if there had been a hack, this is possibly what it would have looked like."
- A related must-read:
NYTimes: A Cyberattack 'the World Isn't Ready For' "this is a nuclear bomb compared to WannaCry"
Resources and Related in Brief
Growing threat: Cyber and nuclear weapons systems
ICYMI- Eric Schlosser: World War Three, by Mistake
What would it take to trigger war between Russia and NATO? Just a spark- or a cyberattack
Wired: No nuclear weapon is safe from cyberattacks
Were they hacked? US Navy to investigate whether BOTH warships that crashed into much larger merchant vessels with deadly results were the victims of a cyber attack
DoD Initiates Process to Elevate U.S. Cyber Command to Unified Combatant Command
Cyberwar looms as diplomats dither
March 6, 2017:
Fearing U.S. Withdrawal, Europe Considers Its Own Nuclear Deterrent
"An idea, once unthinkable, is gaining attention in European policy circles: a European Union nuclear weapons program. Under such a plan, France's arsenal would be repurposed to protect the rest of Europe and would be put under a common European command, funding plan, defense doctrine, or some combination of the three. It would be enacted only if the Continent could no longer count on American protection..."
(NY Times Mar 6, 2017)
Current nuclear stockpiles- for country reports and other details see original annotated infographic at Ploughshares.org.