Top think tank warns cyberattacks could lead to 'inadvertent nuclear launches'

13 January, 2018, 01:28 | Author: Katrina Soto
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"Threats of "fire and fury" and total destruction of the Kim dictatorship undercut diplomatic efforts and increase the likelihood of stumbling into conflict", they said.

There are a number of vulnerabilities and pathways through which a malicious actor may infiltrate a nuclear weapons system without a state's knowledge. It warns that the public could "pay the ultimate price". "The final draft drops proposals to develop a nuclear hyper-glide weapon, and to remove assurances to non-nuclear weapons states that the US will not use its nuclear arsenal against them".

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.

The authors added: "Cyber vulnerabilities within nuclear weapons systems and structures present a whole set of dangers and risks".

Human error, system failures, design vulnerabilities, and susceptibilities within the supply chain all represent common security issues in nuclear weapons systems. "At times of heightened tension, cyberattacks on nuclear weapons systems could cause an escalation, which results in their use...."

It is the responsibility of nuclear weapons states to incorporate cyber risk reduction measures in nuclear command, control and communication systems. Inadvertent nuclear launches could stem from an unwitting reliance on false information and data.

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

It cited examples such as a report the U.S. could have infiltrated the supply chain of North Korea's missile system that contributed to a test failure in April previous year.

"It should be noted that the US Trident D5 missile is used on the submarines of Britain's Trident nuclear weapons system". The paper also cites incidents in Moldova, Georgia and Belgium as potential signs terror groups could be interested in nuclear materials.

The report, Cybersecurity of Nuclear Weapons Systems: Threats, Vulnerabilities and Consequences, was written by Beyza Unal, a research fellow at London-based Chatham House who previously worked on strategic analysis at North Atlantic Treaty Organisation, and Patricia Lewis, research director of the worldwide security department at Chatham House.

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