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        The world has been living with the threat of a nuclear apocalypse since the 1950s. Over the past decade, intelligence experts have increasingly warned about the threat of a catastrophic cyber attack. Now the two fears appear to have merged, with the US on the point of revising its defence policy - to allow the use of nuclear weapons, in retaliation for a devastating cyber attack.
        The Trump administration has not yet released America’s revised, “Nuclear Posture Review”. But the draft document has leaked to the press. According to the New York Times, it would change US policy to allow the first use of nuclear weapons, in response to “attempts to destroy wide-reaching infrastructure, like a country’s power grid or communications, that would be most vulnerable to cyberweapons”.
        特朗普(Trump)政府尚未公布美国修订后的《核态势评估报告》(Nuclear Posture Review)。但媒体已经得到了这份文件的草案。据《纽约时报》(New York Time)报道,新战略将调整美国的政策,允许首先使用核武器,以应对“试图破坏国家电网、通信网络等涉及面广且最容易受到网络武器攻击的基础设施的企图”。
        Developed nations are now almost completely reliant on the internet and functioning computer systems. That, however, increases their vulnerability to cyber warfare. Security experts lose sleep worrying about a range of nightmarish scenarios - including viruses that shut down transport infrastructure, such as air-traffic control; or that disrupt the operations of banks, causing the financial system to seize up. Among the most common horror scenarios are fears for the vulnerability of power generation and distribution.
        In recent years, there have been some indications that these scenarios are moving from the pages of science fiction into reality. A computer virus that disrupted Britain’s National Health Service last year, seems to have originated in North Korea. As long ago as 2007, operatives in Russia unleashed a “denial-of-service” attack on Estonia, disrupting the operation of the internet there.
        近年来,有迹象表明,这些情景正从科幻小说的情节变为现实。去年,一种似乎源于朝鲜的电脑病毒给英国国民医疗服务体系(National Health Service)造成了混乱。早在2007年,俄罗斯特工就对爱沙尼亚发动了一次“拒绝服务”(denial of service)攻击,扰乱了该国互联网的正常运行。
        A really concerted cyber attack, targeting critical infrastructure, could cause social turmoil and mass casualties. Experts have considered a number of responses to this threat. There are frequent calls for a new international treaty to establish some rules for cyber space. Intelligence agencies have also considered the possibilities for cyber-retaliation - and the balance between offensive and defensive capabilities.
        Introducing nuclear weapons into the equation is, however, a new departure. It demonstrates how seriously the US is now taking the threat of cyber warfare; and is clearly designed to massively increase America’s deterrence capacity.
        At the same time, however, the policy shift carries considerable risks. By lowering the bar to the first use of nuclear weapons, it makes nuclear war more thinkable. The dangers of such a move are increased because concerns about nuclear proliferation are mounting - with North Korea’s nuclear weapons programme making rapid progress, and both Pakistan and Russia incorporating the early use of nuclear weapons into their war-fighting plans.
        Another danger is that any nation contemplating a cyber attack, may now also have to consider efforts to disable an adversary’s nuclear capability. The US, for example, has almost certainly considered whether, in the event of a war, there are cyber or electronic means of taking out North Korea’s nuclear missiles. Other nations will now have to make similar calculations about the US.
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