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Dial 00000000 To Blow Up the World

timothy posted about 9 months ago | from the your-public-servants dept.

United States 306

Charliemopps writes "For 20 years the password for the U.S. nuclear arsenal was '00000000.' Kennedy instituted a security system on all nuclear warheads to prevent them from being armed by someone unauthorized. It was called PAL, and promised to secure the entire US arsenal around the world. Unfortunately for Kennedy (and I guess, the whole world) U.S. military leadership was more concerned about delaying a launch than securing Armageddon. They technically obeyed the order but then set the password to 8 Zeros, or '00000000'."

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Illusion shattered (5, Funny)

Rosco P. Coltrane (209368) | about 9 months ago | (#45567061)

You mean to tell me, when WOPR was busy looking for the launch code in Wargames, it was all a bunch of crap?

Dial "1" for a Brand New World (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#45567071)

You mean to tell me, when WOPR was busy looking for the launch code in Wargames, it was all a bunch of crap?

They forgot to tell you that if you dial "1" you get a brand new world.

Re:Dial "1" for a Brand New World (5, Funny)

alphatel (1450715) | about 9 months ago | (#45567127)

You mean to tell me, when WOPR was busy looking for the launch code in Wargames, it was all a bunch of crap?

They forgot to tell you that if you dial "1" you get a brand new world.

Actually the password might have been eight zeros, but you have to dial a 1 + area code to get the outside nuclear line.

Re:Illusion shattered (1)

bruce_the_loon (856617) | about 9 months ago | (#45567083)

Nah, WOPR was more intelligent than the average general and therefore decided the code wasn't 00000000 because that would be stupid.

How often would you try 00000 as the PIN for someone's bank card?

Re:Illusion shattered (3, Funny)

DarkOx (621550) | about 9 months ago | (#45567149)

Never, because bank card PINs are usually 4-digits

Re:Illusion shattered (-1)

AbRASiON (589899) | about 9 months ago | (#45567197)

My bank pincode is 145766412139
(I couldn't fit the 52 at the end)

Re:Illusion shattered (0, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#45567259)

bank card PINs are usually 4-digits

Grammar nazi wants to say that that should be "4 digits". If you would instead say "it has a 4-digit pin", then you would use the dash.

Re: Illusion shattered (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#45567339)

Punctuation Nazi wants to say that that is a hyphen. Even on systems supporting various typographical dashes (slashdot doesn't), a hyphen would be used for "4-digit" or "four-digit".

But you are right in that no hyphen or dash should have been used by the GP.

Illusion restored (1)

jbeaupre (752124) | about 9 months ago | (#45567109)

The codes were changed in 1977. WOPR was installed in 1983.

Re:Illusion restored (0)

maxwell demon (590494) | about 9 months ago | (#45567177)

The codes were changed in 1977.

Let me guess: The new code was "77777777"?

No wait, I know: "12345678"!

SCNR ;-)

Re:Illusion restored (2)

akboss (823334) | about 9 months ago | (#45567287)

666-666-66

Re:Illusion shattered (2)

DNS-and-BIND (461968) | about 9 months ago | (#45567209)

00000000 is just as random as any other code. My grandfather used to play 1-2-3-4-5-6 in the lottery, and when someone would point out that that number would never come up, he'd gleefully educate that person on probability.

Besides, the code that WOPR was trying to crack was a 12-digit alphanumeric string of the style JPE-1704-TKS.

Re:Illusion shattered (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#45567265)

Off-topic, but note that playing an easily remembered set of numbers (not just 1-2-3-4-5-6, any set of numbers that you'll recognize) is bad for several reasons. One reason is that numbers which are special to you have a high probability of being special to someone else. The expected result of playing those numbers in a lottery is therefore lower than for other numbers. There are probably hundreds if not thousands of smartasses like your grandfather with whom he would have had to split the jackpot in case those numbers came up. Another important reason is that, however unlikely it is to have your special numbers come up, it is not impossible. When they do come up and just that time you didn't play, you'll kick your own arse for the rest of your life. This risk is a strong motivation to keep playing, which can lead to gambling addiction. So to lower your risk of getting addicted to gambling, don't ever bet on the same numbers.

Re:Illusion shattered (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#45567315)

I dont think betting on the same numbers all the time causes gambling addiction, it IS gambling addiction. Its the result of being a compulsive gambler. (also the result of not being so hot at maths)

Re:Illusion shattered (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#45567371)

If you've already chosen "your" numbers, it's too late to heed this advice. You can still stop playing, but you've created an obstacle to stopping by choosing a set of numbers that you'll recognize when they come up. Besides, the important aspects of a lottery are explained by economics (particularly the non-linear value of money), not math.

Re:Illusion shattered (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#45567725)

You don't need economics. You just need to know that the expected value (grand prize * probability of winning) is smaller than the price of a lottery ticket.

Ooh. Look Out! (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#45567465)

Ooh, look out! We got us a genius over here.

So, you think it's unwise to play commonly guessed numbers because the payout will be lower?

We already know that the odds are theoretically(mathematically) the same for ANY combination. So how smart are your for refusing to play "common" numbers when those are the winning numbers?

When 1-2-3-4-5-6 wins and you, The Genius, played 45-12-9-21-41-26 do you feel proud that you don't have to share the pot with a bunch of idiots? You must feel so proud, so often.

Re:Ooh. Look Out! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#45567499)

I'll be as proud as DNS-and-BIND's granddad, who never had to split the jackpot with anyone, because he never won the jackpot.

Re: Ooh. Look Out! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#45567653)

But he had to split that un-jackpot with everyone!

Re:Ooh. Look Out! (2)

gl4ss (559668) | about 9 months ago | (#45567675)

so the expected payout is lower - the max payout is definitely lower by order of magnitudes, therefore it is stupid to play those numbers and omgwtf stupid if you're using those numbers to educate people on probabilities and expected outcomes. if you take into account the fact that on any given lottery where you can choose the numbers 1-2-3-4-5-6.. is the most played and any big lottery would have 100 players playing those numbers then if you do the math on the expected return vs. any other number combination over several weeks then you should notice how it in fact is pretty stupid to play those numbers.

the only good reason for him to have been playing therefore had to be just donating money to whatever the lottery in said locale was financing... not to even have a chance at striking it rich, because he forfeited it by choosing those numbers - turning a small, tiny, chance of winning big money into 0.

now knowing that the code for the nukes was set by a human then a logical thing to test out would have been 00...

besides, sub commanders could just launch them by themselves.......

Re:Illusion shattered (4, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#45567271)

00000000 is just as random as any other code. My grandfather used to play 1-2-3-4-5-6 in the lottery, and when someone would point out that that number would never come up, he'd gleefully educate that person on probability.

A pity that those numbers never came; then he and thousands of other "I understand probability" blowhards might have actually learned something. The object in the lottery is not just to pick the winning numbers, but also to share the jackpot with as few others as possible. 1-2-3-4-5-6 is, in fact, the worst possible choice.

Re:Illusion shattered (4, Funny)

mrclisdue (1321513) | about 9 months ago | (#45567321)

...as few others as possible. 1-2-3-4-5-6 is, in fact, the worst possible choice...

That's why I always play 6-5-4-3-2-1, instead.

I'm gonna be rich! Rich! Rich!!!!

suckers,

Re:Illusion shattered (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#45567349)

If those numbers had come up, they would not have learned anything. They all would have said "see, I told you they're just as likely". You'd have pointed out that they could have won more if they had chosen different numbers, and they would have pointed out that no, they wouldn't have, because then they would not have won at all.

If you play the lottery, play the lottery even though you understand probability, not because you understand probability.

Re:Illusion shattered (2)

nospam007 (722110) | about 9 months ago | (#45567487)

"If those numbers had come up, they would not have learned anything. "

They would have learned that another 3,945,432 idiots were playing 1,2,3,4,5,6.

Re:Illusion shattered (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#45567483)

"I understand probability" blowhards might have actually learned something

Like how the probability of winning is so low they are better off not playing?

Re: Illusion shattered (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#45567737)

Road-house!

Re:Illusion shattered (2)

Culture20 (968837) | about 9 months ago | (#45567703)

The object in the lottery is not just to pick the winning numbers, but also to share the jackpot with as few others as possible. 1-2-3-4-5-6 is, in fact, the worst possible choice.

That's why you buy 100,000 tickets marked 1-2-3-4-5-6 every lottery. When it finally pays out, you'll get half of the winnings.

Re:Illusion shattered (for grandpa) (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#45567329)

The problem with your grandfathers "unique" way of playing the lottery, is that it he was probably 1 of 100++ people doing the same thing. Had it ever hit, he would have got to share the jackpot among all those other clever folks. While just as likely to hit as any other, some number sets are much more likely to be PICKED by us humans, thus reducing the overall return.

Re:Illusion shattered (1)

masonc (125950) | about 9 months ago | (#45567377)

"00000000 is just as random as any other code"
Except that you can lean on the button pad and enter it by mistake. Bye Bye world.

Re:Illusion shattered (1)

yndrd1984 (730475) | about 9 months ago | (#45567543)

""00000000 is just as random as any other code""
"Except that you can lean on the button pad and enter it by mistake. Bye Bye world."
Or a short develops - in a button that's used underground or on a submarine.

Re:Illusion shattered (1)

jbolden (176878) | about 9 months ago | (#45567403)

00000000 is highly non random. It is just as likely as any other number to be guessed randomly, but substantially more likely to be guessed non-randomly.

Your grandfather at least was going against a random number generator. A person guessing nuclear codes is not constrained to guessing randomly.

Re:Illusion shattered (1)

DarkOx (621550) | about 9 months ago | (#45567451)

Where your Granpa's lottery ticket is concerned his correct or should be if the lotto is truly random.

Humans picking numbers though are not good sources of random. People tend to do things like choose 0000000, 1111111, 12345..., because they are easy to remember. They also often pick numbers such that the first pairs of digits might represent a valid date because its their dogs birthday or whatever. Knowing this means you try the list of common pattern first (dictionary), then you try the smaller key space of what might be date codes (optimized brute force). Finally you try other numbers. That is if your are trying to guess a value chosen by someone as their pass code.

Actually in the case of the lottery you are probably better off picking something where the first digits cannot represent a date because its just as likely that value will be selected as the winner but far less likely you will have to share the prize because others don't pick those numbers.

If I was some super spy trying to guess US nuclear launch codes for some reason, with no information to go on its very likely I might try something like all zeros, starting with zero, one or something else would likely be determined by how the keypad was arranged.

A properly designed system would not have allowed humans to select the code. A decent PRNG or actual natural random source should have picked a value and forced the operators to simply memorize it.
   

Re: Illusion shattered (1)

StripedCow (776465) | about 9 months ago | (#45567599)

But what if the prng generates a code with all zeros?

Re: Illusion shattered (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#45567621)

Then you reject it and generate another one. If you eliminate all numbers from a dictionary of "special" numbers (repetitions, numbers with cultural significance, etc.), you only reduce the key space by a relatively small amount. The resulting code will still have sufficient entropy, but you're not vulnerable to a dictionary attack.

Re:Illusion shattered (3, Informative)

John Allsup (987) | about 9 months ago | (#45567729)

The best example to be aware of in the UK Lotto, referred to here: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/sci/tech/240734.stm

"The remarkable draw on 14 November 1995 when 133 tickets shared the £16 million jackpot prize is a clear example of the effects the team had deduced.

The winning numbers were 7, 17, 23, 32, 38, 42 and 48, all of which lie in central columns of the ticket, and the players won only £120,000 each. The average number of jackpot winners is five and the average amount won is £2 million."

This illustrates the difference picking common combinations can make.  Once a presenter told you how much you'd win if you did the 1-2-3-4-5-6 thing: only a few thousand!  (While only a small minority have this 'clever' thought, it's enough to elevate the number of entries with 1-2-3-4-5-6 to significantly more than a typical combination.)

Well... ya (5, Interesting)

Sycraft-fu (314770) | about 9 months ago | (#45567211)

In particular because there is no central computer control. The military has always been real big about having humans in the chain, which is why this code isn't a big deal. It still required the two guys in the silos to turn their keys. There isn't any "OMG we hax the missiles!" shit that can go on. At the end of the day, only the operators in the silos can trigger a launch, it isn't on a network.

Same general deal in planes and so on. Like when a modern bombing mission is conducted, all the stuff is uploaded in to the computers beforehand, flight plan, targeting data, all that. The pilot is told on his HUD a countdown to when to release the bombs. Hitting the button doesn't release them either, the plane's computers decide when it is actually best to release. So what does it do? Allows the plane to release. If the pilot doesn't trigger, it can't drop, no matter if it thinks it should. The human is the final deciding factor.

Maybe the military will change their mind some day as automation increases, but for now they are real, real big on having a human have to be the final factor.

Re:Illusion shattered (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#45567289)

Naw. This was before WOPR, when Wheatley was in charge.

Not news (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#45567617)

Considering that I saw this mentioned on a QI episode that's at least a year old, certainly this isn't shocking anyone? If it has been on a BBC comedy quiz, even my granny knows about it.

I always knew (5, Funny)

UberVegeta (3450067) | about 9 months ago | (#45567065)

that sending Snake all the way back to the blast furnance and that freezing warehouse to change the shape of the PAL override shape-memory alloy key was a waste of time. Damn it, Kojima!

So, this is what Slashdot has become? (0, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#45567067)

Posting old ass information as "new"technology news?

Re:So, this is what Slashdot has become? (1)

jones_supa (887896) | about 9 months ago | (#45567275)

It's not "old ass", it's "carefully fermented just the right time".

Re:So, this is what Slashdot has become? (2)

Razgorov Prikazka (1699498) | about 9 months ago | (#45567395)

Oh, and Jimmy Carter once sent his jacket to the dry-cleaner with a paper with the detonation codes still in one of the pockets. Just so you dont have to write a 'news article' on that in the near future...
I got both pieces of info via QI (Quite interesting), wich is normally considered a quiz, but for the author it is probably a news show...

When it comes to Nuclear Weapons (2)

bobthesungeek76036 (2697689) | about 9 months ago | (#45567073)

I guess ease-of-use trumps security...

Re: When it comes to Nuclear Weapons (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#45567093)

They must be running Windows then.

Re:When it comes to Nuclear Weapons (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#45567183)

they had good physical security

i guess when you are being nuked the last thing you want to worry about is finding the right password to nuke the other guy

How do you know you've been nuked (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#45567231)

How do you know you've been nuked before it's too late to launch?

You can't.

Tunguska would have looked like a medium sized nuclear warhead.

QUICK! DIAL 00000000! WE'RE UNDER ATTACK!!!

Of course, when you find out after an hours investigation that turns up no radiation fallout, your nukes are on their way and their recipient has just noticed that they're under unprovoked nuclear attack and launched THEIR birds.

I suppose the "upside" for the morons pressing 0000000 is that nobody is going to care they got it wrong, being too dead and you can just hope that the location that you thought you got nuked on gets hit by a genuine one in the retalliation, thereby making plausible deniability on the mistake.

Thankfully.. (5, Funny)

sjwt (161428) | about 9 months ago | (#45567075)

Thankfully this would not happen today, as after adding a captcha it is now totally undecipherable by man or machine.

Re:Thankfully.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#45567641)

Captcha sounds like the perfect solution for preventing premature launch event, fitting for any general.

Nukum (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#45567087)

Looks like that password worked.
Like the beer commercial "It's only weird if it doesn't work".

Oooold.... (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#45567095)

Frightening, but this has been known at least since 2004.

Re:Oooold.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#45567193)

Frightening, but this has been known at least since 2004.

Hopefully somebody knew it before that.

Re: Oooold.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#45567225)

Robert Morris talked about this at the AUUG 98 conference in Sydney.

Code zero zero zero. Destruct. Zero. (4, Funny)

garlicbready (846542) | about 9 months ago | (#45567097)

who set the code for this thing shatner?

Code zero zero zero. Destruct. Zero.

No, no. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#45567693)

It's code:

Zero. Zero. Zero. Zero. Zero. Zero. Zero. Zero.

<dramatic pause with camera zoom>

Destruct!

<completely unnecessary pause>

Zero.

It's extremely hard to get the Shatneresque timing correct, of course - most people delay too long, so the nukes were perfectly safe. Only William Shatner could have launched them.

Big d*ck (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#45567107)

well, it should have been "big d*ck"; because well, that was what the nukes were all about.

Re:Big d*ck (1)

fritsd (924429) | about 9 months ago | (#45567567)

well, it should have been "big d*ck"; because well, that was what the nukes were all about.

Yes indeed! Big Duck (and Cover) [archive.org] (SFW)

Theatre (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#45567115)

It's like those Air Force dude's who had sitting-in-a-silo careers when there's an other remote control system that can fire ze missiles anyhow.

Obligatory (5, Funny)

jones_supa (887896) | about 9 months ago | (#45567119)

That's the combination for my luggage!

Re:Obligatory (2)

lars_boegild_thomsen (632303) | about 9 months ago | (#45567141)

I am not sure it's wise to admit that in public these days. Someone might assume you've had a hidden agenda for obtaining launch codes.

Re:Obligatory (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#45567303)

Err, my wifi password used to be thirteen 0s.

Re:Obligatory (0)

jfdavis668 (1414919) | about 9 months ago | (#45567311)

I came to post the same thing. Too late.

Re:Obligatory (2)

Zocalo (252965) | about 9 months ago | (#45567527)

Might as well post the other traditional obligatory here too. After all, we all know that the launch code isn't the most important field [xkcd.com] any more!

No worries (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#45567121)

All decryptos begin with 00000001 :D

Star Trek world more secure (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#45567123)

The final password spoken by Kirk to the computer for destruction of The Enterprise in Wrath of Khan, and also in one of the original series' episodes, is something similar like:

000DESTRUCT0

But even ST had THREE passwords - one each for Captain, Chief Engineer and Second in Command.

And it was probably a piss take (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#45567239)

And it was probably a piss take of this real situation.

Maybe someone in missile command watching would think "Haha! That's a DUMB password! Oh, hang on...".

obligatory (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#45567129)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a6iW-8xPw3k

oooooooooh! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#45567133)

What could possibly go wrong with that?

Obligatory (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#45567139)

00000000

"Government can do it better?" (1)

mike555 (2843511) | about 9 months ago | (#45567147)

After this, how can you trust the government to do anything for you?

Roman-proof (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#45567151)

Good thinking! If the Romans invade, they'll never be able to launch the missiles.

Mr Blutarsky (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#45567165)

Zero... point... zero!

00000000 just as secure as 73618357 (5, Insightful)

mowchine (908700) | about 9 months ago | (#45567189)

I saw some idiot claim that people just do not understand probability theory and state that in effect 00000000 is just as secure as 737474757. I would call him ignorant of hacking. What does one start with when cracking password protected systems? . . . a dictionary of common crap people use, like "000000000", "1111111111", "101010101010", "007007007007".

Nowhere near as safe. (3, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#45567245)

Mashing the same button can happen because something has fallen on that button.

Or a cat has walked on the console.

Or you fell asleep.

Or a short pulse is generated by a shorting circuit making a 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 ... which gets to a count of 8 of them. BOOM!

Or another code is needed and has a zero and you forgot the count of zeros.

Even 12345678 would be SAFER because the chance of that randomly happening is really really low.

Re:00000000 just as secure as 73618357 (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#45567295)

00000000 is so unsafe. It would be ten times better to use 000000000.

Re:00000000 just as secure as 73618357 (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#45567309)

It's hundred times better, hexadecimal.

Re:00000000 just as secure as 73618357 (1)

joe_frisch (1366229) | about 9 months ago | (#45567415)

Maybe it is. Seriously, imagine that you have just broken into a missile launch complex and are trying to guess the combo. Would 00000000 really be one of the first you would try?

More seriously, nuclear launch is too important for passwords of any kind. If some reasonable set of people know the password you can threaten or torture it out of them - a minor effort compared to breaking the physical security around a launch complex. Remember its not like you can remotely log in to the launch computer for a Titan missile complex. (more modern missiles now....???)

Re:00000000 just as secure as 73618357 (2)

drinkypoo (153816) | about 9 months ago | (#45567471)

Maybe it is. Seriously, imagine that you have just broken into a missile launch complex and are trying to guess the combo. Would 00000000 really be one of the first you would try?

Since this isn't news (and we've discussed it here before) yes, yes I would try all zeroes. I'd also try all ones, 1-whatever, whatever-1, 0-whatever, etc. on the assumption that whoever initially implemented the password knew as much about security as you do, and due to the vagaries of government contracts it was never changed.

Re:00000000 just as secure as 73618357 (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#45567439)

A dictionary attack would not be required for the launch codes, since they were preset to 0000000. Just turn the keys.

Re:00000000 just as secure as 73618357 (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#45567477)

Except that in this case would you have guessed the password to be all zeroes? Maybe all zeroes was the strongest code in this case?

There is no such thing as a nuclear bomb (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#45567219)

Try doing some RESEARCH. They're all fraudulent, all the film footage you've seen, all fake, or just huge fuel-air bombs.

Re:There is no such thing as a nuclear bomb (0, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#45567361)

http://heiwaco.tripod.com/bomb.htm

Maybe the Roaches will do better with their chance (4, Funny)

VortexCortex (1117377) | about 9 months ago | (#45567227)


"Welcome to the U.S. nuclear arsenal hotline.
Please listen carefully as some menu items have changed.
Para continuar en Espanol marque numero dos.
...
Main menu opti--"

Oh damn it. I fucking hate theses things.
Billions blown and I can't get a real human operator on the line?!


"--mutually assured destruction press 4
For scheduling nuclear launches press 3
For prior launch status updates press 2
To change a nuclear launch code press 1
To launch all mis--"

Aargh! Screw it. I know a trick...
:: repeatedly presses 0 until the end of the world ::

Windows could have blown up the world! (1)

MrBandersnatch (544818) | about 9 months ago | (#45567249)

For a long time as I recall Windows 95, (or was it 2000/XP?) used a string of zeros as the key....that could have been really nasty!

Isn't the actual launch code for a nuclear warhead (1)

Meshugga (581651) | about 9 months ago | (#45567281)

the timings required to set off the compression plastique segments simultaneously, thusly rendering a nuclear bomb ineffective without it?

Re:Isn't the actual launch code for a nuclear warh (1)

chrylis (262281) | about 9 months ago | (#45567285)

Depends on which level you label the "code". The way the PAL worked was that the firing parameters were stored encrypted, and the code entered was used as a decryption key. Bad code, random firing sequence (and a fizzle).

Password? (1)

TeddyR (4176) | about 9 months ago | (#45567283)

well... at least is not as confusing as having the password be "password"

General:: the deactivation password is "password"
Operator: whats the password...
General: "I Said... the deactivation password is PASSWORD"
Operator: ok but whats the password.......
Genaral: The....."; oops too late

Re:Password? (1)

Imrik (148191) | about 9 months ago | (#45567475)

I think "what" would be better, but then I always liked "Who's on First?"

Re:Password? (1)

shikaisi (1816846) | about 9 months ago | (#45567739)

An admin I knew always reset the passwords of people who had forgotten their passwords to "I4GOT". We had lots of support calls which went something like this.

"So what's my new password?"

"I4GOT"

"No, I forgot, but I asked you to reset it for me. What did you reset it to?"

"I4GOT"

"Well, if you forgot it, how do you expect me to remember it?"

etc.

Human Psychology (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#45567355)

I am absolutely certain that most people involved in the decision including the most senior person, would have been influenced by the irony of choosing a password that so absolutely described what would be left, if it were ever used.

True random number (0)

houghi (78078) | about 9 months ago | (#45567359)

This is the same as if it were 12345678 or 28159464 or 81159215 or any other 8 digit combination. (or even CPE 1704 TKS [imdb.com] )

Perhaps they used a random number generator and came up with this number.
What would be interesting would why only digits. Was this a given, or were characters an option as well?

Another would be how many people are supposed to know the code. You would not want too many people, but also not too few. Also not too complicated, so when the time comes, the person does not have to call IT in India to ask for a password reset. (As a matter of speech.)

On the one hand you have a technical reason to make the password as difficult as possible. On the other it must be as easy as possible. I can imagine that people would not want to be pointed at as to why there was no launch possible when needed. (Those who would want to do that, will not get the job. Saving humanity is NOT the goal.)

heh (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#45567383)

I wonder if 411 can connect me because there is no way I can remember 00000000.

I haven't read TFA (1)

ledow (319597) | about 9 months ago | (#45567479)

I haven't read TFA but:

I'd like to think that if you ever got to the point where you were in front of something that would accept a password to launch a nuclear strike, and you WEREN'T one of the people authorised to know the passwords, it's game over anyway.

The only thing that device can do is send an electrical signal to something - if you've got that far, especially in the era mentioned - chances are you just insert that signal directly without having to worry about the Password? prompt anyway.

The questions I have are - was the password a variable-length entry? Because if you just typed in 7 zeros and pressed Enter, would it accept it?

And, what did that password actually DO? What did it activate? What systems did it energise? What kind of hardware was behind it? Where was it stored?

That's infinitely more important than what the damn password is.

Hell, given that Slashdot are now printing articles that basically derive from questions asked on QI some years ago, I'd like to bring up another: the UK's equivalent was to have the prime minister's chauffeur stop his car, dial a phone number and ask the operator to reverse the charges, to call the hotline that would give the prime minister the chance to verbally authorise retaliation in the event of a Soviet nuclear strike.

By comparison, 00000000 is positively forward-thinking.

A systematic problem (5, Interesting)

CaptBubba (696284) | about 9 months ago | (#45567551)

The book Command and Control by Eric Schlosser goes into the issues of the cold war control of our nukes in a wonderful way, detailing just how messed up our control of nukes was and how we are damn lucky that we didn't have an accidental nuclear detonation at some point (there were plenty of accidental conventional detonations that by sheer luck didn't have a nuclear core in them).

Nuclear weapons are "always/never" devices in that they should always work when you want them to and never work when you don't. The military only cared about the "always" side of the equation. So much so that they even nixed the idea of an inertial switch in fusing mechanism of the reentry vehicles of ICBMs that would only connect the detonation systems after detecting the g-forces of reentry.

Further any suggestion of improving the control of the nukes was met with grumpy rage at civilians daring to tell the military how to run its business as well as fights between the Air Force, Army, and Navy over funding and power.

WOPR (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#45567553)

I guess WOPR's brute force attack started from the top, 99999999.

No big deal... (1)

Lisias (447563) | about 9 months ago | (#45567579)

... if the keypads that would accept the code is guarded by a squad of trigger happy elite shooters.

Knowing the password worths squat if you get shoot before touching the keypad - and you will get shoot if you try to get near one without proper authorization.

Not only... (5, Informative)

DerekLyons (302214) | about 9 months ago | (#45567635)

Not only a dupe, but old, old news. This has been publicly and widely known for nearly a decade [slashdot.org] .

Snowden has the new codes! (1)

Grand Facade (35180) | about 9 months ago | (#45567659)

Snowden has the new codes!

Joke's on them (4, Funny)

Guppy06 (410832) | about 9 months ago | (#45567661)

The password is actually 8 Unicode capital omicrons.

"b00000000!" Betcha I scared y000 HA HA (1)

TheRealHocusLocus (2319802) | about 9 months ago | (#45567717)

Note we are not talking about straight launch codes (the envelopes etc.) This was an additional safeguard, a component in the message link (as in un-squelch) layer between SAC and silo.

I learned of this years ago, and since I've tracked the sentiment and reaction to it. How we thoughtfully react to this idea might be crucial to our survival and evolution as a species. Why? It hinges on personal responsibility. Time and again it is portrayed as a farce, a madcap circus-like adventure in the absurd. Or sternly, a waste of money and resource, a breech of protocol, a crime. A mistake. I'm not so sure. This was no mistake. The existence of such robotic barriers in c3i mechanisms breeds a dangerous complacency.

It is my view that the '00000000' PAL code as implemented not only performed well -- it actually added a significant edge to our species' survival impossible to achieve any other way.

Every time a technician would open the little door and inspect the combination at the start of their tour of duty, to ensure it was all zeroes... they'd say "Well this certainty isn't a factor. We'd better be on our toes!" Humans on their toes. The extra little edge. All the assurance we could ever hope to survive. Delivered: I THANK YOU, PERMISSIVE ACTION LINK. No joke.

When judging a system's insecurity by the strength of its passwords, it helps bear in mind such lock-out systems as implemented, may themselves fail or be subverted to achieve an undesirable result. The movie 'Failsafe' illustrates this well.

00000000 kept humans 'in the loop' while making them gravely aware of their personal responsibility to properly authenticate and verify orders.

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