The warning comes after the US Government Accountability Office issued a study which admitted that the Pentagon is “just beginning to grapple with the scale of vulnerabilities” to weapons systems when it comes to cybersecurity.
Potential cyberattacks on the UK’s weapons and satellite navigation networks could trick precision missile systems into attacking the wrong targets, The Times has cited experts as saying.
Patricia Lewis, research director for international security at the London-based foreign affairs think tank Chatham House, noted that “what worries us most is not so much intercepting and perhaps preventing [satellite] information from getting through.”
According to her, the main concern is “manipulating and ‘spoofing’ it so that the information that you get for your weapons systems for targeting or for command and control is wrong — and you don’t know it’s wrong.”
Lewis added that both European and US space systems had repeatedly faced “successful and attempted cyberhacks.”
Her cautionary words were echoed by Jack Watling, research fellow for land warfare at Royal United Services Institute, the armed forces think tank, who warned that spoofing satellite navigation systems would have far-reaching consequences.
The worst-case scenario is that you start launching precision strikes at, say, an enemy strongpoint and it lands on a hospital rather than on the target,” Watling said.
The experts’ remarks came after a report by the US Government Accountability Office revealed that the country’s Department of Defense (DoD) “is drastically increasing its efforts to improve and test the resilience of its weapons systems” to possible cyberattacks.
“In recent cybersecurity tests of major weapon systems DoD is developing, testers playing the role of adversary were able to take control of systems relatively easily and operate largely undetected,” the survey said.
In 2016, the British government pledged to inject 265 million pounds (about 348 million dollars) into a new cyber-vulnerability investigations program, with the Ministry of Defense vowing at the time that they are ready to tackle “cyberthreats wherever they come from.”