Cyber & Technology

Missile Sabotage by Covert Means

By Herb Lin
Tuesday, February 19, 2019, 4:08 PM

In a Feb. 13 story in the New York Times, David Sanger and William Broad report that the Trump administration has accelerated a secret American program to sabotage Iran’s missiles and rockets by inserting faulty parts and materials into Iran’s aerospace supply chains.

The recently released Brookings book “Bytes, Bombs, and Spies: The Strategic Dimensions of Offensive Cyber Operations” contains a chapter on “Hacking a Nation’s Missile Development Program,” which may provide some useful background for understanding the Sanger and Broad story. This chapter is not specifically related to any covert program that may—or may not—have been proposed or carried out. It does provide what might be called informed speculation on how a long-range missile development program of a small, authoritarian and relatively impoverished nation might be compromised by cyber (and other) means. In other words, it does not address anything specific that is known to be actually happening but rather focuses on what might be possible within the limits of known technology and techniques.