Published: Sat, January 13, 2018
Global | By Shelia Dennis

Cyber attacks on nuclear systems could lead to 'inadvertent' missile launches

Cyber attacks on nuclear systems could lead to 'inadvertent' missile launches

This could "hijack decision-making with potentially devastating consequences", it found.

The report also said the likelihood of attempted cyber attacks on nuclear weapons systems "is relatively high and increasing".

In a new open letter to members of Congress, seventeen former nuclear launch officers issue a grave warning regarding President Trump's unfettered access to nuclear weapons, declaring that the current US nuclear launch process "poses a clear and present danger to the country and the world: No one - not the secretary of defense, not the attorney general, not Congress - can veto that order".

"Cyber-vulnerabilities within nuclear weapons systems and structures present a whole set of dangers and risks", the report, released today by Chatham House, said.

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Nuclear weapons are increasingly vulnerable to cyber-attacks that could have "catastrophic" consequences due to their reliance on new technology, a report warns today.

There are a number of vulnerabilities and pathways through which a malicious actor may infiltrate a nuclear weapons system without a state's knowledge.

The US may have infiltrated parts of North Korea's missile systems a year ago and caused test failures.

Potential weaknesses include rudimentary components, the report said.

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Cyber interference could also destroy industrial control systems within delivery platforms, such as submarines, causing them to malfunction, while clandestine attacks could be conducted on targeting information or operational commands, which may not be discovered until the point of launch. These risks could undermine confidence in a country's ability to react at a time of crisis.

"We can not stand idly by as Donald Trump holds us all hostage to his petulant mood swings", said Dr. Bruce Blair, a veteran nuclear launch officer and co-founder of the Global Zero movement to eliminate nuclear weapons.

The paper's authors, Dr Beyza Unal and Dr Patricia Lewis, said that although such risks have existed for a long time, new technology has "exacerbated" the threat facing nuclear weapons systems.

Secretary of defence at the time of the last review, Robert Gates, said then: "The NPR provides a road map for implementing President Obama's agenda for reducing nuclear risks to the United States, our allies and partners and the worldwide community".

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"Although some information is publicly available on U.S. weapons systems, there is very little information regarding other nuclear weapons states", the report said.

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