Bruce Blair raises important questions and concerns about hacking nuclear weapons systems in his op-ed in the New York Times, “Why Our Nuclear Weapons Can Be Hacked,” on March 14, 2017. If the U.S. and other nuclear-armed countries continue on the path they’re on, sooner or later, despite the best of intentions, hackers will succeed, leading to unauthorized missile launches, nuclear anarchy and nuclear catastrophe.
Foolproof systems are not possible, particularly when countries are allocating increasingly significant scientific and financial resources to cyber warfare. As Edward Teller, father of the H-bomb, pointed out, “Sooner or later a fool will prove greater than the proof, even in a foolproof system.” The world has narrowly escaped many close calls due to accidents and false alarms of nuclear attacks. This good fortune will not continue indefinitely.
The possibility of cyber warfare is one of the best possible arguments for U.S. leadership to negotiate the abolition of nuclear weapons before they abolish us. Later this month, some 130 countries will be meeting at the United Nations in New York to draft a new treaty to prohibit and eliminate nuclear weapons. Sadly, and dangerously, the U.S. and the other P-5 nuclear weapons states have chosen not to participate in these negotiations. They seem to prefer the false security and political advantages of possessing their nuclear arsenals to ridding the world of the dangers posed by these arsenals. Being hacked is only one of many serious dangers. There are also the ongoing threats of nuclear warfare initiated by accident, miscalculation, intention or insanity.