Friday, 19 January, 2018

UK's nuclear weapons vulnerable to a cyberattack, think tank warns

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Ellis Copeland | 12 January, 2018, 16:19

A new report from the Chatham House think tank has warned that cybersecurity vulnerabilities could lead to accidental nuclear war if countries carrying the hugely destructive warheads do not introduce new measures.

'Inadvertent nuclear launches could stem from an unwitting reliance on false information and data.

'At best, cyber insecurity in nuclear weapons systems is likely to undermine trust and confidence in military capabilities and in the nuclear weapons infrastructure. "As a result, current nuclear strategy often overlooks the widespread use of digital technology in nuclear systems", the authors of the study said. "Moreover, a system, that is compromised can not be trusted in decision-making".

The development of a low-yield warhead for a sea-launched ballistic missile is based on the belief that in any conflict with Russia on Nato's eastern flank, the Russians would use a tactical nuclear weapon early on, to compensate for their relative weakness in conventional arms.

Once in the door, those actors could "launch a weapon, prevent an inadvertent launch, maintain command and control of all military systems, transmit information and other communications and the maintenance and reliability of such systems", the report noted.

The report suggests the likelihood of attempted cyber attacks on nuclear weapons systems is "relatively high" and cites reports the USA may have infiltrated parts of North Korea's missile systems past year and caused test failures. "Human error, system failures, design vulnerabilities and susceptibilities within the supply chain all represent common security issues in nuclear weapons systems", it added.

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"Nuclear weapons systems were first developed at a time when computer capabilities were in their infancy and little consideration was given to potential malicious cyber vulnerabilities", it said.

Concerns have been raised overDonald Trump's administration plans to develop smaller yield nuclear weapons and lessen constraints on the usage of such weapons in warfare.

Trump warned the hermit country: 'North Korean Leader Kim Jong-Un just stated that the "Nuclear Button is on his desk at all times".

The researchers outlined a number of doomsday scenarios that could hit any nuclear arsenal in the world. "Solutions to these risks, therefore, should go beyond applying cyber security policies because, in this context, cyber risk reduction is actually about nuclear risk reduction".

Trump reportedly responded to a chart about the reduction in USA nuclear weapons since the Cold War by hoping for a ten-fold increase in the stockpile, though he called the reporting from NBC "pure fiction". These should incorporate an analysis of a combination of threats, vulnerabilities and consequences.

Potential weaknesses include rudimentary components, the report said. "Academia and civil society should be encouraged to bring this issue to the attention of their government".

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