A report put together by the Department of Defense found that the U.S. ballistic missile system lacked data encryption, antivirus programs and multifactor authentication methods. The report also found that some 28-year-old vulnerabilities remain unresolved.
The report was put together earlier this year after DOD officials inspected five random locations where the Missile Defense Agency (MDA) had placed ballistic missiles as part of the Ballistic Missile Defense System (BMDS), a DOD program developed to protect US territories by launching ballistic missiles to intercept enemy nuclear rockets. The recent security audit concluded that “the Army, Navy and MDA did not protect networks and systems that process, store, and transmit BMDS technical information.”
Auditors found several problematic areas, including the fact that multi factor authentication was not consistently used. Under normal circumstances, any new MDA employee would receive a username and password that they could use to access BMDS’ network. As new employees are eased into their new jobs, they’d also receive a common access card (CAC) that they’d have to enable for their accounts and use together with their password, as a second-factor authentication. Normal procedure says that all new MDA workers must use multi factor authentication within two weeks of being hired.
The DOD found that at three of the five locations, investigators found that many users did not enable multi factor authentication for their accounts, and were still using their username and password to access BMDS’ network. The DOD also found that vulnerabilities were not consistently patched, removable media data was not encrypted and no intrusion detection and prevention system was ever implemented.
On top of the cybersecurity concerns, there were also vulnerabilities in the physical security of the locations. For example, MDA personnel didn’t challenge auditors who entered buildings without proper badges, allowing unauthorized personnel to wander around through top secret buildings. The MDA currently has 104 ballistic missile locations and plans to build another 10, but if it doesn’t improve both its physical and cybersecurity protections, these bases could easily be attacked in case of a conflict.