According to the international affairs thinktank Chatham House, nuclear weapons systems in countries like the US and Britain have become increasingly vulnerable to cyber attacks. The report suggests that the issue is failing to receive enough attention from officials involved in those operations, according to the Guardian. The cite rapid advances in cyber threats, coupled with the sluggishness of institutions ability to keep up with such issues, as catalysts for the rising threats.
“Nuclear weapons systems were developed before the advancement of computer technology and little consideration was given to potential cyber vulnerabilities. As a result, current nuclear strategy often overlooks the widespread use of digital technology in nuclear systems,” according to Chatham House. “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.”
Hostile nations, terrorists, and criminal groups were listed as potential sources of the threats.
Chatham House also pointed to reports that said the US may have infiltrated and sabotaged North Korea’s missile supply chain, leading to the failure of a test last year, saying that US silos with nuclear-tipped Minuteman missiles “are believed to be particularly vulnerable to cyber attacks.”
Beyza Unal, a research fellow with Chatham House who also worked as a strategic analyst at Nato, and Patricia Lewis, research director for Chatham’s international security department, wrote the report, which is titled Cybersecurity of Nuclear Weapons Systems: Threats, Vulnerabilities and Consequences.
The report listed “human error, systems failures, design vulnerabilities and susceptibilities within the supply chain” as opening up vulnerabilities to cyber attacks and other manipulation. It also discusses the privatized aspects of weapons development and cybersecurity in Britain and the US, as “potentially introducing a number of private-sector supply chain vulnerabilities.”
So far, according to the report’s authors, the issue has failed to gain the traction it deserves within the military community.
“Military procurement programmes tend not to pay adequate consideration to emerging cyber risks – particularly to the supply chain – regardless of the government regulations for protecting data against cyber attacks. 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.”