Nuclear weapons' cyber attack risk relatively high, says report

Nuclear weapons' cyber attack risk relatively high, says report

"Cyber vulnerabilities within nuclear weapons systems and structures present a whole set of dangers and risks". Said circumstances now include "a response to a non-nuclear attack that caused mass casualties" or in response to an attack aimed at critical infrastructure or nuclear control sites.

Leaving nuclear weapons systems vulnerable to cyber criminals could have unsafe consequences, including them possibly setting off the weapon during a time of crisis through data manipulation. "At times of heightened tension, cyberattacks on nuclear weapons systems could cause an escalation, which results in their use...."

It cited examples such as a report that the United States could have infiltrated the supply chain of North Korea's missile system, contributing to a test failure in April a year ago.

It is the responsibility of nuclear weapons states to incorporate cyber risk reduction measures in nuclear command, control and communication systems.

The study also recorded illicit trafficking in Moldova and Georgia of radioactive and nuclear materials, a Belgian ISIS cell monitoring the movements of a nuclear scientist and the hacking of German Patriot missiles in 2015.

The report, entitled Cybersecurity of Nuclear Weapons Systems: Threats, Vulnerabilities and Consequences, said the issue required "urgent attention" from the governments of nuclear-armed states, and those that could be affected by the use of nuclear weapons.

The author of the report said:"Nuclear weapons systems were developed before the advancement of computer technology and little consideration was given to potential cyber vulnerabilities".

More news: Pakistan army chief: USA general called, offered assurances

The plan breaks with the previous administration's goal of reducing nuclear weapons in U.S. defense strategy.

The last Nuclear Posture Review was released in May 2010 under former president Barack Obama and focused more on reducing the role of nuclear weapons and heightening transparency around the stockpile in the USA, thereby reducing the risks of nuclear weapons in the world.

Potential artificial intelligence (AI) applications, while creating new opportunities for cybersecurity, add another layer of complexity for nuclear weapons that could be exploited.

The authors criticise military failures to take the issue seriously.

Widespread reliance on digital systems in the military means communications between commanders, positioning data, and the supply and logistics chain could all be vulnerable.

"This could be due to constantly lagging behind the fast-moving nature of cyber attacks, a lack of skilled personnel and the slow institutional and organisational implementation of changes".

'Where (the administration) go overboard, is where they say... the U.S. needs to develop two new types of nuclear weapons, ' Wolfsthal said.

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