Cyber attacks on nuclear systems could lead to ‘inadvertent’ missile launches
NUCLEAR WEAPONS SYSTEMS are becoming increasingly vulnerable to cyber attacks, a report has warned, which could lead to the ‘inadvertent’ nuclear launches.
The ‘Cybersecurity of Nuclear Weapons Systems: 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”.
The think-tank this partly on the failure to keep up with fast-moving advances, lack of skilled staff and the slowness of institutional change.
“Nuclear weapons systems were developed before the advancement of computer technology and little consideration was given to potential cyber vulnerabilities. As a result, the current nuclear strategy often overlooks the widespread use of digital technology in nuclear systems,” the study reads.
“The likelihood of attempted cyber-attacks on nuclear weapons systems is relatively high and increasing from advanced persistent threats from states and non-state groups.”
As an example of what is possible, Chatham House points to a Washington Post report published in March 2017 that said the US had infiltrated parts of North Korea’s missile systems and caused test failures.
“Recent cases of cyber attacks indicate that nuclear weapons systems could also be subject to interference, hacking and sabotage through the use of malware or viruses, which could infect digital components of a system at any time,” the research paper said.
“At times of heightened tension, cyber attacks on nuclear weapons systems could cause an escalation, which results in their use. Inadvertent nuclear launches could stem from an unwitting reliance on false information and data.”
Commenting on the report, Javvad Malik, security advocate at AlienVault, said: “There are many risks with connecting legacy systems, we’ve seen in the past years an increase in the attempts to attack critical national infrastructure such as electricity. Going after connected weaponry is the next step, be it for espionage purposes, or something more sinister.
“Owing to the legacy infrastructure, rapid patches, or constant monitoring is not always feasible, therefore, it is in the best interests to keep such systems as segregated as possible to minimise the risk of external actors being able to access.” µ