Page Stoutland, Ph.D.
Consultant, Scientific and Technical Affairs
Cyber threats increase the risks of use of nuclear weapons by accident or miscalculation. Digitization of nuclear command, control, warning and delivery systems render them increasingly vulnerable to these risks.
Evaluate and recommend ways to mitigate cyber-nuclear threats with American and Russian nuclear policy and cybersecurity experts.
Innovative and actionable risk reduction and cooperation measures to mitigate cyber threats to American and Russian nuclear weapons and related systems.
As cyber capabilities evolve and nuclear weapons systems become increasingly vulnerable to cyberattacks, the risk increases that nuclear weapons will be used by accident or miscalculation. Cyber threats could erode leaders’ confidence in nuclear weapons delivery and warning systems, and technical solutions alone cannot guarantee avoiding catastrophe. The United States and Russia, as guardians of the world’s largest nuclear stockpiles, have an existential common interest and responsibility to work together to prevent nuclear catastrophe.
The United States and Russia together hold more than 90% of the world’s nuclear weapons and both have advanced cyber capabilities, making bilateral cooperation between the two nations particularly important for reducing the risks of unintentional nuclear war. In 2018, NTI assembled a high-level study group of American experts who found that a successful cyberattack on nuclear weapons systems could have catastrophic consequences. The speed, stealth, unpredictability, and attribution challenges of cyberattacks make them difficult to anticipate, deter, and defend against, including for nuclear weapons systems. To address these risks, the experts recommended taking a global approach to the cyber threat to nuclear weapons systems and specifically, to initiate Russian-American collaboration on these issues.
NTI and the Institute for U.S. and Canadian Studies (ISKRAN) co-convene a dialogue among cyber/information security and nuclear weapons policy experts from both the United States and Russia. The participants engage in the discussions with the common understanding that nuclear weapons systems must be protected from escalating cyber threats and that the unique U.S.-Russia nuclear relationship requires bilateral cooperation to maintain stability. Experts address topics including possible crisis scenarios and escalation pathways, opportunities for building transparency, and bilateral cyber-nuclear norms.
Recognizing that technical measures alone are insufficient and practical solutions are needed, the dialogue aims to develop policy recommendations for governments to better understand and reduce cyber threats to nuclear weapons and related systems.