Chatham House: Nuclear weapons are vulnerable to cyber attacks

Trump administration set for more hawkish position on nuclear weapons

Trump administration set for more hawkish position on nuclear weapons

Nuclear weapons systems - including the UK's Trident warheads - were first developed when computers were in their infancy and little consideration was given to cyber vulnerabilities, the authors warn.

Jon Wolfsthal, who was special assistant to Barack Obama on arms control and non-proliferation, said the new nuclear posture review prepared by the Pentagon, envisages a modified version of the Trident D5 submarine-launched missiles with only part of its normal warhead, with the intention of deterring Russian Federation from using tactical warheads in a conflict in Eastern Europe.

The White House, Wolfsthal said, is also attempting to loosen constraints that guide first-strike protocols, in what he described as a decidedly more hawkish posture that breaks away from historical precedent.

He said that the was told by the people who wrote the policy draft that they were sending out a deterrent message to the Russians, the North Korean and the Chinese.

The report, entitled "Cybersecurity of Nuclear Weapons Systems: Threats, Vulnerabilities and Consequences", was written by Beyza Unal, a research fellow at London-based Chatham House who previously worked on strategic analysis for North Atlantic Treaty Organisation, and Patricia Lewis, research director of the global security department at Chatham House.

"It should be noted that the US Trident D5 missile is used on the submarines of Britain's Trident nuclear weapons system".

Kate Hudson, General Secretary of the Campaign for Nuclear DIsarmament said, "This unsafe new policy expands the role of nuclear weapons in U.S. foreign policy and makes nuclear war more likely".

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'At worst, cyber attacks could lead to deliberate misinformation and the inadvertent launch of nuclear weapons.

"With each new digital component embedded in the nuclear weapons enterprise, new threat vectors may emerge", the report said. Will someone from his depleted and food starved regime please inform him that I too have a Nuclear Button, but it is a much bigger & more powerful one than his, and my Button works!'

Anti-nuclear campaigners have condemned President Trump's plans to expand the role of nuclear weapons, widely expected in his forthcoming Nuclear Posture Review. He said it was unwarranted as the country already had low-yield weapons like gravity bombs and air-launched cruise missiles. If systems went down, then a country believing it is under attack, when it isn't, could launch deadly nuclear warheads by mistake.

The theory behind the White House plan assumes that if Russia attacks North Atlantic Treaty Organisation forces on its eastern flank, the Russians would use a tactical nuclear weapon early on, to compensate for their relative weakness in conventional arms, the Guardian notes. The Russians, the argument goes, would count on United States reluctance to use the massive warheads on its existing weapons, leading Washington to back down.

Military experts say that such a scenario would be unlikely.

Wolfsthal said that he believed that the review he saw was the final draft, and it stated that the U.S. would start work on sea-launched nuclear missile to counter the alleged Russian bid to develop a ground-launched cruise missile. That is just not the case. We have never, ever heard anyone say that is so'.

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