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

Phil SandlinUS Plans to Send'Hawkish Clear Deterrent Message to Russia China and N Korea- Reports Jon Wolfsthal

NUCLEAR WEAPONS SYSTEMS are becoming increasingly vulnerable to cyber attacks, a report has warned, which could lead to the "inadvertent" nuclear launches.

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

Mr Wolfsthal told the newspaper that he had seen a copy of the final draft of the NPR which proposed the creation of the new weapon as well as revising the terms of use for weapons which would include attacks against national infrastructure or nuclear sites.

Software in the nuclear missile system was being upgraded after defence officials admitted there was "legitimate concern" about threats from cyber hackers.

A new study by respected academics at Chatham House revealed nukes - including the UK's Trident warheads - were at risk because they were developed before the advent of cyber warfare.

"At times of heightened tension, cyberattacks on nuclear weapons systems could cause an escalation, which results in their use", it continued.

The report also raised the prospect of "cyber spoofing", which creates false information that seems to come from a legitimate source but affects a country's decision-making process.

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The report, recently released, went on to add that cyber vulnerabilities within nuclear weapons systems and structures present a whole set of dangers and risks.

Some of the known methods that would affect the decision-making process for launching a nuclear weapon include data manipulation, cyber jamming communication channels or cyber spoofing, according to the authors of the report, global security researchers Beyza Unal and Patricia Lewis.

'And there is pretty good, moderate but strong language that makes clear that any attempt by Russian Federation or North Korea to use nuclear weapons would result in a massive effect for them and I think that's actually moderate, centrist and probably very much needed'.

"In times of crisis, loss of confidence in nuclear weapons capabilities would factor into decision-making and could undermine beliefs in nuclear deterrence - particularly in extending nuclear deterrence to allied countries".

In September 2017, Rob Soofer, deputy assistant defense secretary for nuclear and missile defense policy, said the NPR would look at how nuclear weapons could "deter new non-nuclear attacks that could have strategic effects: catastrophic mass casualties, cyberattacks against U.S. infrastructure, chemical or biological attacks, or attacks against United States critical space capabilities".

While the researchers do not claim that emerging technologies are the primary risk to consider in the nuclear field, they argue that although key risk areas have existed for a long time, new technology has exacerbated these risks. "These should incorporate an analysis of a combination of threats, vulnerabilities and consequences", they said. "Academia and civil society should be encouraged to bring this issue to the attention of their government".

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