Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Can Nuclear Weapons be Hacked?

Apparently so...
Bruce G. Blairmarch. March 14, 2017. Why Our Nuclear Weapons Can Be Hacked. The New York Times, https://www.nytimes.com/2017/03/14/opinion/why-our-nuclear-weapons-can-be-hacked.html?emc=edit_th_20170314&nl=todaysheadlines&nlid=32962000

Cyberwarfare raises a host of other fears. Could a foreign agent launch another country’s missiles against a third country? We don’t know. Could a launch be set off by false early warning data that had been corrupted by hackers? This is an especially grave concern because the president has only three to six minutes to decide how to respond to an apparent nuclear attack.

...We lack adequate control over the supply chain for nuclear components — from design to manufacture to maintenance. We get much of our hardware and software off-the-shelf from commercial sources that could be infected by malware. We nevertheless routinely use them in critical networks...

One of these deficiencies involved the Minuteman silos, whose internet connections could have allowed hackers to cause the missiles’ flight guidance systems to shut down, putting them out of commission and requiring days or weeks to repair. These were not the first cases of cybervulnerability. 
In the mid-1990s, the Pentagon uncovered an astonishing firewall breach that could have allowed outside hackers to gain control over the key naval radio transmitter in Maine used to send launching orders to ballistic missile submarines patrolling the Atlantic...
And nuclear weapons are not the only tool for would-be hackers.  The Guardian has a letter to the editor by David Lowry detailing how "smart meters" could also be hacked, leading to widespread and catastrophic power outages:
CIA Hacking Tool Raises Huge Concerns. The Guardian https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/mar/13/cia-hacking-tools-raise-huge-concerns

...One alarming academic article by Dheeraj Gurugubelli and Dr Chris Foreman of Purdue University sets out how a targeted attack on smart meters could potentially result in the shutdown of the power grid, disabling energy delivery systems. (They argue that “the compromise of even a single smart meter through focused attack or reverse engineering potentially provides access to the AMI network as a whole. This, coupled with the extensive use of multiple wireless technologies and geographic dispersion, results in an attack surface of unprecedented scale.”
We live in a precarious age wherein catastrophic risks are encoded into our infrastructures in ways that enable a few individuals and groups to threaten human extinction with their disregard for human and environmental consequences.


  1. excellent observations. other day when I saw articles about nuke plant getting interest from a slough of vendors, I thought, no way they can monitor every single piece.