Hackers could start a nuclear war by taking control of UK’s Trident submarines
The British American Security Information Council (BASIC) is in a place of worry and anger after reports have been coming in that the country’s nuclear capable submarines might be vulnerable to a hack. Adding fuel to the flames is the reason for the vulnerability.
Claims and counter-claims
The reports have specifically mentioned Britain’s Trident nukes has been susceptible to a hack. The nukes are carried by Britain’s Vanguard range of submarines and to make matters worse, the nation’s Ministry of Defence (MoD) has claimed that the submarines are “hacker-proof”. The reason behind the MOD’s rejection of these reports is that the submarines are barely in contact with the internet. They are deployed for months at a stretch and during that time, there is absolutely zero contact with the internet or any other external network. If that made you feel better, let’s set the World War 3 scare out of the bag by mentioning that the submarines run on Windows XP.
“Submarines on patrol are clearly air-gapped, not being connected to the internet or other networks, except when receiving (very simple) data from outside. As a consequence, it has sometimes been claimed by officials that Trident is safe from hacking. But this is patently false and complacent.”
Common sense has meanwhile prevailed at BASIC with the group insisting that the lack of connectivity while deployed is no guarantee of the submarine being hacker proof. The fact that the submarines can have access to the internet is itself paradoxical to the MOD’s claim.
“Trident’s sensitive cyber systems are not connected to the internet or any other civilian network,” the report says. “Nevertheless, the vessel, missiles, warheads and all the various support systems rely on networked computers, devices and software, and each of these have to be designed and programmed. All of them incorporate unique data and must be regularly upgraded, reconfigured and patched.”
Former Labour Defence Secretary Des Browne has responded to the report directing us to the fact that country’s National Health Service (NHS) computers were affected by the WannaCry ransomware attack recently. The ransomware was most likely not even directed to the NHS, yet the country as a whole suffered and thus, having a nuclear submarine being on the receiving end of a malware – even though it was not the intended target – is a very real possibility.
“To imagine that critical digital systems at the heart of nuclear weapon systems are somehow immune or can be confidently protected by dedicated teams of network managers is to be irresponsibly complacent,” Browne said.
BASIC director Paul Ingram and cybersecurity expert Stanislav Abaimov was the author of the report.