back to article Trident nuke subs are hackable, thunders Wikipedia-based report

A group of anti-nuclear campaigners have claimed Britain’s nuclear deterrent submarines are vulnerable to hackers – and their report setting out the “evidence” quotes, in part, from Wikipedia. The British American Security Information Council (BASIC) reckoned that Blighty’s four Vanguard-class nuclear missile submarines could …

Anonymous Coward

On the whole, we can still sleep safely in our beds tonight regardless of this report.

Boom!

Had you going...

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Re: July Gold Boojum

Yes, that's right. " Nuclear deterrent" is your Google term.

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Re: July Gold Boojum

NATO doctrine for most of the Cold War was to use nuclear weapons first, in certain circumstances. Mostly to wipe out large Soviet tank formations breaking through NATO lines. There was an awful lot of theorisiing about nuclear escalation paths, and the difference between tactical, theatre and strategic nuclear weapons. Not as much in reality as people hoped, I rather suspect...

Trident is accurate enough to use as a counter-force weapon. Though the UK hasn't ever held that nuclear posture, as it would have been too expensive. So our policy has always been limited but massive retaliatory strike as deterrent.

Where the enemy has liquid fuelled ICBMs (say North Korea), a first strike with your solid fuelled (quicker to launch) ones may be a possibility, if you're convinced they're about to fire.

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Anonymous Coward

There's an obvious error in this article.

It should be "water-gapped".

Is that coat mine?

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Anonymous Coward

Re: There's an obvious error in this article.

No error in the article, just your reading.

"...Avoiding quick decisions is the whole reason for putting nuclear missiles on submarines, and water-gapping is considerably more effective than just air-gapping..."

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Sounds about as well researched as one of the 'Girl with the Dragon Tattoo' books where a hacker was described as being so amazing he'd been able to take control of a RN submarine as it patrolled the deeps. Actually thinking about it, have they used that as a reference?

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Anonymous Coward

Was his name Tetsuo Shima?

And what does that have to do with girls who may or may not have tattoos of dragons?

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"Sounds about as well researched as one of the 'Girl with the Dragon Tattoo' books where a hacker was described as being so amazing he'd been able to take control of a RN submarine as it patrolled the deeps."

That's at least physically possible. In an episode of Bones, an ueber-hacker etches a virus on a bone, so that when it's scanned into the system it infects the protagonist's computer.

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Them dry bones!

Bone-borne computer virus?

Definitely a new approach at snow crashing things.

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DavCrav

That's rather plausible... IF you know their OCR is active on all images/files (as part of the scanning suite... because they ALWAYS add automated junk to those HP drivers ;) ) and know their is an exploit to run code (say like that MS defender scanning bug or some other exploit).

I don't mind shows and films pulling out the improbable, but when they do the impossible, it should be with some humor! https://youtu.be/u8qgehH3kEQ

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'That's at least physically possible.'

It really isn't. Unless he was actually on the submarine.

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Re: DavCrav

Was the hacker called Little Bobby Tables?

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Or introns infected a super AI in The Deus Machine by Pierre Ouellette

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Anonymous Coward

Normal USB Attack Vector

I keep thinking of someone picking up a USB stick off the seabed outside of the submarine.....

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Re: Normal USB Attack Vector

Would that be when they sneak outside for a cigarette?

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Black Helicopters

Re: Normal USB Attack Vector

USB is only a quick letter swap away from SUB - those Goddam Russkies will sap and impurify all of our precious bodily fluids before we know it!

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Re: Normal USB Attack Vector

General Ripper!?

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Re: Normal USB Attack Vector

I thought USB stood for UnterSeeBoot.

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Re: Normal USB Attack Vector

The biggest risk is picking up Castaways or hitchhikers;

'Mind if I plug this in? I haven't listened to any good music for ages'.

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Re: Normal USB Attack Vector

I suppose on the plus side, the Russians have little incentive to hack our submarines to launch a first strike against Russia. Although now I've written that, I can't help but wonder...

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Re: Normal USB Attack Vector

No this is where some numpty of an ensign doesn't see anything wrong with installing Конфеты хруст on a work terminal or possibly even just the onboard crew entertainment system.

Just how air gapped/integrated are the onboard systems from/with each other. Can a thumb drive plugged in in the forward torpedo room conceivably affect anything in the engine room?

The danger of networked systems on a war vessel is that a saboteur no longer needs physical access to a system to compromise it. Furthermore computerisation makes possible sabotage that stays hidden until the captain punches the great big "This is not a drill" button.

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Single Point of Failure

Even if the subs have secure IT, the policy of at times only having one loaded and at sea does mean that our deterrent has a single point of failure.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Single Point of Failure

Thought there were two?

Then one in dock and the other one in repair / refit....

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Re: Single Point of Failure

There are 4, of which 1 is always on patrol and 1 is always in maintenance. The other 2 can be on exercise or patrol as required.

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Re: Single Point of Failure

"There are 4,"

It's still a bit of a stretch for the report to refer to them as a "fleet" though. I'm not sure what the minimum number is to call a collection of vessels a fleet, but 4 doesn't cut it for me ;-)

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Re: Single Point of Failure

In a Real Navy, two to four of the same kind of ship is a 'division', two to four divisions would be a 'squadron', more than four divisions would be a 'flotilla' ('little fleet') and a bunch of squadrons, divisions, not all of the same type, and whatnot a 'fleet'. Alternatively, instead of grouping things by type of ship you could group them by task. A small task would get a 'task group' of 2-7 ships of varying type, typically in these times a few anti-submarine ships and a few anti-air-warfare ships, the ASW ships usually being unable to defend themselves against surface or air threats, the AAW ships being able to hit surface or air threats but not being much good against subs. Real Navies (that would be American, Russian, French, and Indian) would typically have an aircraft carrier or an amphibious assault ship or both in there as well, and might have support ships such as tankers. A 'task force' would be a larger group, often consisting of multiple task groups. In Ye Goode Olde Daze of 1945, British Pacific Fleet operated as Task Force 57 inside the United States Fifth Fleet. British Pacific Fleet had six fleet carriers, four light carriers, 9 escort carriers, four battleships, 11 cruisers (including 2 each New Zealand and Canadian, the Australian cruisers were operating with MacArthur's Navy, a.k.a. US 7th Fleet) plus lots more. Fifth Fleet had over 530 ships, including TF 57.

Four subs isn't even a flotilla.

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Coat

Re: Single Point of Failure

Good info J O'S. however, "Four subs isn't even a flotilla." Would not a flotilla need to float, generally considered to be on the surface, to be called that. OK subs do float in a buoyancy kind of way.

Mines the one with Jane's in the pocket.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Single Point of Failure

4 doesn't cut it as a fleet for me either, but we are talking about the politicians / mandarins who gave us aircraft carriers with no aircraft, contracted to buy aircraft that don't work yet but had sold the ones that did before that anyway, etc etc

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Re: Single Point of Failure

"OK subs do float in a buoyancy kind of way."

Subs that don't float are unpopular with crew members.

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Re: Single Point of Failure

Subs that don't float are unpopular with crew members.

Not for long though...

Wasn't it the USS (should that be CSS?) Hunley in the Civil War that sank 3 times. Killing 21 members of those 3 different crews. Only managed to get into one battle, won (just barely), but sank on the way back to port in water too deep to raise it. So no more Confederate crews had to suffer.

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Re: Single Point of Failure

....Would not a flotilla need to float, generally considered to be on the surface..

No. Subs do float, even when they are underwater, unless they are resting on the sea bed.

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Re: Single Point of Failure

Actually, won quite convincingly. Sunk its target rapidly, within 5 minutes......

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Mushroom

Boom

Mate of mine used to be a submariner on a Trident boat and wangled a tour for a few mates including me.

The systems on those boats look like well maintained relics from the late 70s early 80s (probably because they are). I can't imagine there is much hacking that can be done without a screwdriver and a soldering iron.

My mate's work console had a worrying resemblance to Homer Simpson's station at the power-plant.

So no, not really worried about a v boat being hacked by hippies with iPads.

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Mushroom

Re: Boom

If the command system got hacked and the "correct" signal sent out then Russia could be warmed a "bucket of sunshine"

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Re: Boom

So no, not really worried about a v boat being hacked by hippies with iPads.

The current crop - agree - not a chance in hell. Now, the replacement...

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Boom

If the command system got hacked and the "correct" signal sent out then Russia could be warmed a "bucket of sunshine"

The reply will be a quick conversion of most of the UK to a glass lake. 16 missiles versus 1600. Not a pretty math.

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Re: Boom

What is the figure of 1600 based on? I thought it was based on a rough guess and assumptions that pretty much all of the soviet era stuff is in use and maintained perfectly.

The Russians sensibly refuse to comment but given their known defence budget and known spending their figure is almost certainly closer to 16 than 1600.

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Re: The reply will be a quick conversion of most of the UK to a glass lake.

And then, this:

http://physicstoday.scitation.org/doi/full/10.1063/1.3047679

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Boom

Naw mate, with any luck it will be like f35. You will need to turn of the sonar to rise. I bet the subs will be so badly coded that the hack might actually fix some thing. Either that or it wont run because no coder in the right mind could understand that spaghetti code.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Boom

>If the command system got hacked and the "correct" signal sent out then Russia could be warmed a "bucket of sunshine"

Even if it were possible to launch, it wouldn't get far - our American cousins are required to provide guidance once it breaks the surface. It's only an independent deterrent to the extent we choose when and where to park it....and the US doesn't get to launch them without our approval.

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Re: Boom

So no, not really worried about a v boat being hacked by hippies with iPads.

Hippies? Really? All they ever wanted was sex, drugs, and rock and roll. Peace protests were their way of meeting up with others for the 3 basics. I'd be more worried about the kid living in the parent's basement that is stuffed with computers..

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Re: Boom - command signal

I thought the signal to retaliate was a lack of the Archers and shipping forecast (or more generally a lack of Radio 4 long-wave).

No more Archers or Test Match Special- now that is the end of civilisation.

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Re: Boom

The submarines use GPS to work out where they are. Or more accurately to calibrate their inertial navigation gear, as they only get GPS data when at periscope depth with an antenna up.

The warheads themselves use a star-tracker to get their position, so don't need GPS.

So you're incorrect. It's an independent deterrent until the US refuse to cooperate on maintenance. At which point the missiles have a ten year rated lifespan, and we usually have 2 or 3 boats loaded at any one time. So we could probably maintain a credible reduced deterrent for 6 months to a couple of years.

So not enough to get a replacement solution in place, but long enough that the US can't cut us off at the knees halfway through a crisis.

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Re: Boom

> So no, not really worried about a v boat being hacked by hippies with iPads.

Maybe not, but have you considered the risk of someone plugging in their laptop and typing in

UPLOAD TROJAN

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Mushroom

Re: Boom

@Mark 85

I'd be more worried about the kid living in the parent's basement that is stuffed with computers..

Hey! I moved out of my parents basement AGES ago.... I now have my very own basement :)

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Re: Boom

>The reply will be a quick conversion of most of the UK to a glass lake. 16 missiles versus 1600. Not a pretty math.<

Which is why Trident can carry multiple independently-targeted warheads per missile; up to 12 each I believe, although 8 is the norm. Of course the Russians also have similar capability and more missiles, but it's overkill. What we have is enough to inflict huge damage on them, which is a sufficient deterrent to make a first strike unthinkable (except for the current crop of Tories, it appears...)

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Boom

Spartacus,

you're going to upset a lot of my Corbyn-supporting friends.They've been busy going round telling people we have to ask American permission to launch, and here you are, providing information that doesn't support the party line. Oh no, wait, it does support the party line, just not the party leader's line.

Who needs facts and accuracy when we have politicians as an alternative? ;)

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Re: Boom

>Even if it were possible to launch, it wouldn't get far - our American cousins are required to provide guidance once it breaks the surface. It's only an independent deterrent to the extent we choose when and where to park it....and the US doesn't get to launch them without our approval.<

There is a HUGE amount of misinformation out there about our deterrent, and your comment is part of it!

1. We do NOT need US permission/codes to launch; it would probably be impossible to get that at time of war anyway! If the sub commander believes the UK government has been 'compromised' then he opens his sealed orders and acts accordingly

2. NO external guidance is required whatsoever. Trident uses an inertial guidance system. The missile is launched towards its target using the most accurate data available at the time. Once the missile reaches an appropriate altitude it takes sightings of several stars and makes any course corrections that might be necessary.

It would be wonderful if posting this meant that I'd never have to correct someone on it againb, but experience proves that that won't be the case...

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Re: Boom

>So you're incorrect. It's an independent deterrent until the US refuse to cooperate on maintenance. At which point the missiles have a ten year rated lifespan, and we usually have 2 or 3 boats loaded at any one time. So we could probably maintain a credible reduced deterrent for 6 months to a couple of years.

So not enough to get a replacement solution in place, but long enough that the US can't cut us off at the knees halfway through a crisis.<

And that maintainance is only a contractual obligation. I'd be VERY surprised if the Navy didn't have people with the required skills available to do the work if needed.

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