A recent study conducted by the International Commission of Nuclear Non-proliferation and Disarmament (ICNND) shows that terrorist groups could actually use the Internet to trigger a nuclear attack.
The Guardian has summarized the findings in a recent article that points to inadequate security measurements within worldwide governments. Hints of a possible well-organized cyberwar reflect the recent DDoS attacks sustained by South Korean and U.S. government websites.
According to the ICNND's published paper, terrorists could break into computer systems and launch an attack on a nuclear state. In turn, the state would launch its nuclear arsenal on another nation, thus triggering a chain of events leading up to a possible global catastrophe. This method of attack might actually be easier for terrorists, as they aren't required to acquire nuclear weapons or build "dirty bombs."
"Despite claims that nuclear launch orders can only come from the highest authorities, numerous examples point towards an ability to sidestep the chain of command and insert orders at lower levels," said Jason Fritz, the author of the paper. "Cyber-terrorists could also provoke a nuclear launch by spoofing early warning and identification systems or by degrading communications networks."
The study said that despite the rising awareness of cyberwar threats from other nations, worldwide governments that are taking action to bolster their defenses still many not be prepared for rogue groups using unconventional methods during a cyber attack. The paper uses 9/11 as a comparison: using unconventional weapons in "an unprecedented attack."