Could the US take out North Korea’s missiles before launch?
It’s been touted as a cost-saving measure that could be used in conjunction with the traditional ballistic missile defense systems, which cost hundreds of millions of dollars.
How to do it
Retired Adm. Archer Macy said at a 2015 talk on missile defense that the Defense Department was trying to develop technologies to prevent missiles from launching, mess with their flight paths or navigation systems and even destroy their warheads.
“We cannot afford to build enough interceptors to engage the quantity of threat missiles which can be presented to us. And even if we could, we can never expect a 100% probability of defeating all of them regardless of the techniques used,” Macy said.
As far as what to hack, “there’s lots of ways in, which makes it very hard for the defender to know what’s being attacked and what’s not being attacked,” said Austin, who is leading the UNSW’s newly announced Research Group on Cyber War and Peace.
Most missiles have a self-destruct button, which could be activated.
Something like the Stuxnet virus, which penetrated Iran’s Natanz nuclear facility, could be deployed.
In theory, it could be as simple as infecting systems with corrupted software via a USB thumb drive, says Jai Galliott, a defense analyst and professor at UNSW. Though the question remains how that could physically be done in a country as closed off as North Korea.
Austin believes a successful hack would most likely target the launch sequencing, which could potentially degrade the launch.
“All you’d have to do in a complex missile launch system is like the (Stuxnet virus in the) Iranian nuclear enrichment facility. Just interfere with a process that creates a physical effect of some sort that then has a destructive effect on the operation of the missile.”
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