Antinuclear

Australian news, and some related international items

Nuclear weapons not much good against cyber attacks

Nuclear weapons are a risky defence against cyber attacks  https://www.ft.com/content/d2241b68-fc31-11e7-9b32-d7d59aace167The new US policy risks increasing the chance of a conflict, writes 

The world has been living with the threat of a nuclear apocalypse since the 1950s. Over the past decade, intelligence experts have increasingly warned about the threat of a catastrophic cyber attack. Now the two fears appear to have merged, with the US on the point of revising its defence policy — to allow the use of nuclear weapons, in retaliation for a devastating cyber attack. The Trump administration has not yet released America’s revised, “Nuclear Posture Review”. But the draft document has leaked to the press. According to the New York Times, it would change US policy to allow the first use of nuclear weapons, in response to “attempts to destroy wide-reaching infrastructure, like a country’s power grid or communications, that would be most vulnerable to cyberweapons”.

Developed nations are now almost completely reliant on the internet and functioning computer systems. That, however, increases their vulnerability to cyber warfare. Security experts lose sleep worrying about a range of nightmarish scenarios — including viruses that shut down transport infrastructure, such as air-traffic control; or that disrupt the operations of banks, causing the financial system to seize up. Among the most common horror scenarios are fears for the vulnerability of power generation and distribution.
In recent years, there have been some indications that these scenarios are moving from the pages of science fiction into reality. A computer virus that disrupted Britain’s National Health Service last year, seems to have originated in North Korea. As long ago as 2007, operatives in Russia unleashed a “denial-of-service” attack on Estonia, disrupting the operation of the internet there. A really concerted cyber attack, targeting critical infrastructure, could cause social turmoil and mass casualties. Experts have considered a number of responses to this threat. There are frequent calls for a new international treaty to establish some rules for cyber space. Intelligence agencies have also considered the possibilities for cyber-retaliation — and the balance between offensive and defensive capabilities. Introducing nuclear weapons into the equation is, however, a new departure. It demonstrates how seriously the US is now taking the threat of cyber warfare; and is clearly designed to massively increase America’s deterrence capacity.
At the same time, however, the policy shift carries considerable risks. By lowering the bar to the first use of nuclear weapons, it makes nuclear war more thinkable. The dangers of such a move are increased because concerns about nuclear proliferation are mounting — with North Korea’s nuclear weapons programme making rapid progress, and both Pakistan and Russia incorporating the early use of nuclear weapons into their war-fighting plans. Another danger is that any nation contemplating a cyber attack, may now also have to consider efforts to disable an adversary’s nuclear capability. The US, for example, has almost certainly considered whether, in the event of a war, there are cyber or electronic means of taking out North Korea’s nuclear missiles. Other nations will now have to make similar calculations about the US. gideon.rachman@ft.com
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January 19, 2018 - Posted by | General News

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