US ‘just beginning to grapple with’ cyber issues on weapons systems

By Erin Ayers on October 15, 2018

The U.S. Department of Defense falters on cybersecurity when it comes to safeguarding its weaponry, according to a recent report from the Government Accountability Office (GAO), which highlights the cyber-physical risks present in the government’s systems.

“Several weapon system-specific factors make it important to tailor cybersecurity approaches, but also make cybersecurity difficult. Because weapon systems can be very large, complex, systems of systems with many interdependencies, updating one component of a system can impact other components. A patch or software enhancement that causes problems in an email system is inconvenient, whereas one that affects an aircraft or missile system could be catastrophic,” stated the GAO.

As the Pentagon prepares to invest $1.66 trillion in developing its weapons systems, the GAO warned that cybersecurity must be a part of the plan. The government is “just beginning to grapple with the scale of vulnerabilities,” according to the report.

“DOD has only recently begun prioritizing weapon systems cybersecurity. Instead, for many years, DOD focused cybersecurity efforts on protecting networks and traditional IT systems, such as accounting systems, rather than weapons,” said the GAO.

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eayers@advisen.com'

Erin is an editor at Advisen. She has 15 years of journalism experience. Prior to Advisen, Erin covered property-casualty insurance for 13 years as editor-in-chief of The Standard, New England’s Insurance Weekly. Erin is based in Boston, Mass. Contact Erin at eayers@advisen.com.