Hacking the Bomb

Cyber Threats and Nuclear Weapons

Andrew Futter
Foreword by Lord Des Browne

" A compelling analysis of how information systems associated with nuclear weapons might be vulnerable, what adversaries might do with such vulnerabilities and what all this might mean for strategic stability."
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Are nuclear arsenals safe from cyber-attack? Could terrorists launch a nuclear weapon through hacking? Are we standing at the edge of a major technological challenge to global nuclear order? These are among the many pressing security questions addressed in Andrew Futter’s ground-breaking study of the cyber threat to nuclear weapons.

Hacking the Bomb provides the first ever comprehensive assessment of this worrying and little-understood strategic development, and it explains how myriad new cyber challenges will impact the way that the world thinks about and manages the ultimate weapon. The book cuts through the hype surrounding the cyber phenomenon and provides a framework through which to understand and proactively address the implications of the emerging cyber-nuclear nexus. It does this by tracing the cyber challenge right across the nuclear weapons enterprise, explains the important differences between types of cyber threats, and unpacks how cyber capabilities will impact strategic thinking, nuclear balances, deterrence thinking, and crisis management. The book makes the case for restraint in the cyber realm when it comes to nuclear weapons given the considerable risks of commingling weapons of mass disruption with weapons of mass destruction, and argues against establishing a dangerous norm of “hacking the bomb.”

This timely book provides a starting point for an essential discussion about the challenges associated with the cyber-nuclear nexus, and will be of great interest to scholars and students of security studies as well as defense practitioners and policy makers.

Table of Contents

Foreword by The Rt. Hon. Lord Browne of Ladyton

Introduction: WarGames Redux?

Part 1: The Nature of the Challenge
1. What Exactly Do We Mean by the Cyber Challenge?
2. How and Why Might Nuclear Systems Be Vulnerable?

Part 2: What Might Hackers Do to Nuclear Systems?
3. Stealing Nuclear Secrets
4. Could Cyberattcks Lead to Nuclear Use or Stop Systems from Working?

Part 3: The Cyber-Nuclear Nexus at the Strategic Level
5. Cyberdeterrence, Nuclear Weapons, and Managing Strategic Threats
6. A Cyber-Nuclear Security Dilemma, Nuclear Stability, and Crisis Management

Part 4: Challenges for Our Cyber-Nuclear Future
7. Nuclear Weapons Modernization, Advanced Conventional Weapons, and the Future Global Nuclear Environment

Conclusion:Managing Our Cyber-Nuclear Future

About the Author


"A compelling analysis of how information systems associated with nuclear weapons might be vulnerable, what adversaries might do with such vulnerabilities and what all this might mean for strategic stability."—Survival

"In this outstanding survey, Andrew Futter explores how the 'cyber challenge' might interact with the nuclear enterprise in general, and nuclear deterrence in particular. . . . To his credit, Futter avoids the hyperbole often used to characterize the cyber threat. His two-level characterization of the cyber challenge (i.e., context and operations) also brings analytical clarity to a subject that lacks a common taxonomy."—The Nonproliferation Review

"Futter’s valuable book surveys the new dangers and also considers how states might deter cyberattacks on critical infrastructure. He stresses the importance of securing sensitive nuclear information and of keeping control systems as simple as possible and separating them from other networks."—Foreign Affairs

"Will resonate well with those interested in nuclear weapons and cyber threats alike. For all others, the content serves as a well-researched point of reference for the intersection of these two ever-present topics in the modern security landscape."—Proceedings

"This book is necessary, it is useful, it illustrates where the errors and the loop holes are. Will it actually save us from our selves? Who knows, but hopefully some of the more basic ways of doing so could perhaps be tightened up?"—Irish Tech News

""If you are bothered by the fact that our top security officials cannot determine with high confidence whether computer malware or other hacking could cause Russian, Chinese, or U.S. nuclear missiles to be illicitly fired, you should read this book. If you are bothered by the fact that cyber operations could confuse leaders into launching nuclear missiles during a crisis, you should read this book. If you are not bothered because you are not aware of such dangers, you should read this book. Professor Futter asks all the right questions about the myriad dangers that information warfare poses to the command and control of nuclear forces, and illuminates the answers to the extent that current knowledge allows. His important and provocative book also connects the cyber issues to the major risks of nuclear instability and accidents, providing rich context for his analysis. A cross between historical investigation, policy analysis, and theory, this is a must-read volume for anyone who cares about this perilous new threat to mankind."—Bruce G. Blair, Research Scholar, Princeton University. Co-Founder, Global Zero

"Introduces an important puzzle at an extremely relevant time . . . has the potential to be a significant contribution to our limited understanding of the impact of cyber operations on nuclear stability."—H-Diplo

"Nuclear strategy is hard – but cyber operations makes it harder. In this thorough and insightful work, Andrew Futter skillfully weaves the many threads binding cyberspace and the nuclear establishment to urge caution for those who would ignore or promote cyberwar on nuclear capabilities. Strategists of all flavors, take note."—Martin Libicki, Author, Cyberspace in Peace and War

"In his deeply researched and artfully written Hacking the Bomb, Andrew Futter has added a key nuance: the machines upon which the complex systems that command and control nuclear weapons depend may themselves become prisoners of skillful hackers."—Political Science Quarterly

"Futter’s Hacking the Bomb is a must-read for any policymaker and defense theorist. The cyber domain touches everything, and defense professionals must integrate it into all policies."—H-War

"Futter’s book reminds us that the world needs norms, for cyber activities in general and for the nuclear-cyber relationship in particular."—H-War


Supplemental Materials


Finalist for the 2019 PROSE Award in Government and Politics of the Association of American Publishers

About the Author

Andrew Futter is an associate professor in the School of History, Politics, and International Relations at the University of Leicester. He is the author of The Politics of Nuclear Weapons and Ballistic Missile Defence and US National Security Policy, the editor of The United Kingdom and the Future of Nuclear Weapons, and co-editor of Reassessing the Revolution in Military Affairs.

212 pp., 6 x 9
2 figures
ISBN: 978-1-62616-564-9
Apr 2018

212 pp., 6 x 9
2 figures
ISBN: 978-1-62616-565-6
Apr 2018

212 pp.
2 figures
ISBN: 978-1-62616-566-3
Apr 2018

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