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August 25, 2004

The Ever-So-Cryptic Nuclear Missle Launch Code

Reading an article on The Nation and came across this interesting paragraph, from an interview with Bruce Blair, a nuclear missle launch officer in the 1970s:

To launch a Minuteman [nuclear missile] in [the 1970s], one had to "unlock" the missile by dialing in a code -- the equivalent of a safety catch on a handgun. However, Blair reports, the US Strategic Air Command was worried that a bunch of sissy safety features might slow things down. It ordered all locks set to 00000000 -- and in launch checklists, reminded all launch officers like Blair to keep the codes there. "So the 'secret unlock code' during the height of the nuclear crises of the Cold War," Blair says, "remained constant at 00000000."

Makes me grateful for the relatively low level of damage that can be done from our machines should a simple password lead to a compromise.

Posted by mike at August 25, 2004 1:43 PM