Friday, June 04, 2010

Security thru Obscurity doesn't work for Nukes either

In the computer world, many companies used to rely on their closed code and poorly-documented functionality to keep pirates and hackers from gaining unauthorized access to their systems. This was termed "security thru obcurity" and it worked pretty well until the Internet Era. Then the sharing of information allowed hackers to pool their knowledge and skills to defeat even the most obscure code. Nowadays, vendors have to resort to encrypted code or "signed apps" in order to secure their systems (one of the reasons for the Apple App Store).

But nuclear policymakers are still relying on "security thru obscurity" as a way to stop proliferation of nuclear weapons. They figure if they carefully control the spread of nuclear knowledge, and track materials, then no one can secretly develop their own nukes. Unfortunately, recent news that the tiny nation of Myanmar (formerly Burma) is developing nukes with North Korean help puts the lie to this theory. So long as nations can benefit from nuclear weapons - and can afford the raw materials - they will try to build them as protection against other nuclear powers.

One policymaker was rumored to say during the Manhattan Project, "Why did we build these devices if not to use them?" We then nuked Hiroshima and Nagasaki. How long until a North Korean or Myranmar politician decides the same thing? Welcome to Cold War II.

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