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Are the UK's Trident nuclear weapons vulnerable to cyberattacks?

The UK's former defense secretary Des Browne has issued a stark warning that the country's nuclear weapons could be vulnerable to cyberattacks. The Trident program is already a highly-divisive subject, and Browne is seeking assurance from the Prime Minister that it is secured against attacks from hostile states such as China and Russia.

He has called upon the government to perform an end-to-end assessment of the system. The US had previously warned that it could not be confident that its own defenses and those of its allies would be capable of withstanding a cyberattack from a "sophisticated and well-resourced opponent".

Trident has been a hot topic recently, as the government sets out plans to plough billions of pounds into its nuclear deterrent whilst simultaneously introducing additional austerity measures and cutting back on welfare payment. £3.2 billionn over five years has been allocated to improve cyber security, but there are suggestions that this is simply not enough.

Lord Browne is now the vice-chair of the Nuclear Threat Initiative, and says: "The government... have an obligation to assure parliament that all of the systems of the nuclear deterrent have been assessed end-to-end against cyber attacks to understand possible weak spots and that those weak spots are protected against a high-tier cyber threat. If they are unable to do that then there is no guarantee that we will have a reliable deterrent or the prime minister will be able to use this system when he needs to reach for it."

But former White House defense policy official Franklin Miller believes the US nuclear system is impervious to cyberattack: "It is no surprise that Des Browne would be coming up with arguments against the successor to Vanguard and to be grasping at straws.

"If our nuclear command and control system depended upon the internet or went through the internet then the report by the defense science board would be quite an important warning. However, for those reasons it is a standalone system. It is air-gapped. It does not go through the internet."

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