Cyberattacks on Russia—the nation with the most nuclear weapons—pose a global threat

Published in Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists | Volume 75, 2019

In July 2018, the Kremlin released the official transcript of a meeting between President Vladimir Putin and the nation’s special-services employees, when he thanked them for ensuring security during the 2018 World Cup in Russia. Putin revealed in his speech that during the preceding weeks, as millions of people watched the world’s best players kick a soccer ball, “almost 25 million cyberattacks and other criminal attempts on Russia’s information infrastructure … were neutralized”

Millions of cyberattacks over a couple of weeks is a frightening revelation, but the attacks are of particular concern because Russia has the world’s largest deployed arsenal of nuclear weapons. The Federation of American Scientists estimates that as of early 2018, Russia’s nuclear arsenal has 4,350 warheads, of which about 800 are deployed on intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) Russian officials have stated that these missiles are ready to be launched within “several dozen seconds” or “a few tens of seconds.” The United States also has hundreds of nuclear weapons in a similar posture. Long-time nuclear policy analysts Bruce Blair, Hal Feiveson and Frank von Hippel worry about the possibility that “one day someone will mistakenly launch nuclear-tipped missiles, either because of a technical failure or a human error – a mistake made, perhaps, in the rush to respond to false indications of an (enemy) attack.”

Continue reading on the BAS/Taylor & Francis website >