The U.S. nuclear arsenal may be vulnerable to devastating cyber attacks by adversaries, Bruce Blair of the Program on Science and Global Security at Princeton warns in a recent op-ed.
Two troubling incidents highlight the vulnerability of the weapons system and the consequences a single mistake can have. Fifty nuclear weapons were suddenly rendered inoperable for over an hour in 2010 as a result of a technical glitch nobody in the U.S. Air Force had ever noticed. The Air Force traced the glitch to single computer card but then discovered several similar defective parts which could be exploited by a hacker.
A review of the U.S. nuclear arsenal ordered by former President Barack Obama then found that some of missile management systems were connected to the internet and could be exploited. The discovery came after a major late 1990’s breach of a nuclear radio transmitter which is responsible for sending nuclear launch codes to U.S. submarines around the globe. A vulnerability in the radio system was discovered which could have been hacked to send false launch codes, prompting a nuclear exchange.
Blair highlights the highly limited response time of the Commander in Chief in the event of a nuclear event. President Donald Trump would only have approximately 3-6 minutes to decide on a course of action, leaving little room for error.
Cyber attacks may not be the only vulnerability in U.S. nukes. The U.S. may also be losing its ability to conduct a nuclear weapons test, former U.S. nuclear official John Hopkins warned in the latest Los Alamos newsletter. Hopkins warned that his review of current Department of Energy readiness leads him to believe that there is no “realistic appreciation for what nuclear testing involves or how to stay prepared to do it again within 24–36 months, as legally required by Presidential Decision Directive 15 (1993).”
Trump indicated in late February he wanted to expand the U.S. nuclear arsenal, and was concerned that the U.S. has “fallen behind on nuclear weapon capacity.”
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