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Blighty's nuclear deterrent will get a software upgrade amid cyber-war fears

MoD doubles infosec spending as digital threats grow

By Gareth Corfield, 31 Mar 2016

Software powering Britain's nuclear-tipped Trident II missiles is to be updated following fears of a cyber-attack, according to reports.

The Daily Telegraph reported that Britain's Trident missiles, currently carried by the Royal Navy's Vanguard-class submarines, are to receive software updates to help guard against cyber-attacks.

The move comes as part of the Ministry of Defence's decision to spend £1.9bn on cybersecurity over the next five years, almost double its previous five-yearly spend of £860m.

BAE Systems will carry out the upgrade on the Trident missiles for both the UK and the US, according to Bloomberg.

While both countries use the Trident missile system in their respective nuclear deterrents, Britain's 225 nuclear warheads were developed and supported entirely separately from the US by the Berkshire-based Atomic Weapons Establishment.

Cyber threats are likely to be fairly limited against the 25-year-old Trident system because they are exclusively deployed aboard submarines, and thus isolated from the outside world for months at a time. The launch of the missiles is entirely dependent upon the submarines rather than the missiles, and despite jibes about Windows for Warships – all Royal Navy vessels currently run a hardened, customised version of Windows XP – it is very unlikely any non-state actor would have the capability to infect the submarines' systems.

Each of Britain's 58 Trident II missiles are maintained at the Royal Naval Armaments Depot at Coulport, on the remote shores of Loch Long in Scotland.

The Vanguard boats are capable of carrying 192 warheads, though the 1998 Strategic Defence Review reduced routine deployments to carrying 48 warheads, loaded onto 16 missiles. Each Royal Navy missile carries an average of three warheads on routine deployments. ®

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