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NTI Experts Warn of Inherent Cyber Risks Associated with Nuclear Weapons and Modernization

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Erin Dumbacher, senior program officer of NTI’s Scientific and Technical Affairs Program, and Lynn Rusten, vice president of NTI’s Global Nuclear Policy Program, call attention to the cyber risks inherent in nuclear weapons systems and modernization efforts in a recent article published by The National Interest, “Nuclear Weapons Must Be Safe from Cyber Threats.”

As the U.S. replaces Cold War-era nuclear weapons systems and incorporates new technology, Dumbacher and Rusten write that “digital security risks and reliability concerns are more significant than ever before.” To mitigate these threats, the U.S. government “must prioritize digital security and reliability…for any system supporting nuclear deterrence.” Dumbacher and Rusten also point to the Biden administration’s anticipated “fail safe review” of nuclear weapons systems as an extremely valuable tool to understand gaps in U.S. nuclear security that could be exploited by cyberattacks, and to identify opportunities for unilateral and cooperative risk reduction with other nuclear states. This is particularly important in the context of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and Russian president Vladimir Putin’s recent nuclear saber-rattling, as “[the U.S. and Russia] have a mutual existential interest in avoiding the use of nuclear weapons, be it intentional or inadvertent, the result of cyber operations or not.”

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