What We’re Reading: Cyberwarfare, Hacking and North Korea Nuclear Policy

Donald Trump has just passed the half-way mark of his first 100 days in office – a yardstick by which every new president's early performance is measured  – and the rush of news out of the White House, the new administration, and Congress has been so overwhelming that it’s easy to miss interesting and pertinent stories on global and nuclear security issues.

So setting aside stories about healthcare and hacking, leaks about tax returns, and tweets about wiretapping, we’ve pulled together some of the most interesting reading, reporting, and listening on the top security issues making headlines.

With the usual disclaimer that the views expressed may not necessarily reflect those of NTI, members of our Board or the organizations with which they are associated, we recommend the following:

On cyber nuclear security:

Did secret Pentagon cyberwarfare cause some of North Korea’s test missiles to explode or plunge into the sea? New York Times reporters David Sanger and Bill Broad’s stories (here and here) about the Pentagon’s disruption efforts raise a host of questions about the wisdom and effectiveness of new so-called “left of launch” tactics designed to hobble or stall nuclear programs in rogue states.

In a Times podcast about the stories, Sanger—in just 60 seconds—offers what may be the simplest, most cogent and most important analysis of how and why evolving cyber capabilities and strategies may unravel strategic deterrence and the long-held nuclear order. The whole piece is well worth a listen, but Sanger articulates the significant risks ahead in that one minute, starting at 17 minutes and 26 seconds.

Global Zero founder Bruce Blair, a former missileer, followed up with an-op on the topic: Why Our Nuclear Weapons Can Be Hacked. In it, he warns that, “Despite its allure, cyberwarfare risks causing nuclear pandemonium.”

NTI is engaged in work to prevent cyber threats to nuclear facilities and command and control systems. ICYMI when it came out in December, check out our report, Outpacing Cyber Threats: Priorities for Cybersecurity at Nuclear Facilities.

 

More on North Korea:

Former U.S. Defense Secretary William J. Perry, an NTI Board member emeritus and author of My Journey at the Nuclear Brink, urges President Trump to adjust his administration’s approach to dealing with North Korea in a new op-ed in the Huffington Post. “Our diplomacy has consistently failed to persuade North Korea to give up its nuclear arsenal and is likely to continue to fail if that is our overriding goal,” Perry writes. “But we do have a viable diplomatic option to reduce the dangers created by that arsenal.” Read Perry’s piece.

Perry’s not the only one with advice for President Trump on North Korea. In an op-ed for Politico Magazine, Toby Dalton, co-director of the Nuclear Policy Program at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, and Jon Wolfsthal, former senior White House official and non-resident scholar at Carnegie, offer this advice: “So what should Trump do? The best approach—unsatisfying as it may be—is to ensure that any negotiations with North Korea not only rely on Chinese leverage, but are accompanied by a regular and sustained effort to convince South Koreans of the durability of U.S. security commitments. In this way, the Trump administration can evaluate the costs and benefits of competing approaches while keeping the big picture in mind.

If you have reading, listening or viewing suggestions, please email Atomic Pulse Editor Mimi Hall at hall@nti.org

 

March 16, 2017
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Mimi Hall
Mimi Hall

Senior Director for Content

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Leon Ratz is a Program Officer with NTI’s Material Security and Minimization program. He works on issues related to the security of military nuclear materials, Russian nuclear security, and other nuclear security and non-proliferation matters.