8″ Floppy Marked “Top Secret” An Integral Part Of US Nuclear Security!?

/ 2 years ago


This week saw CBS 60 Minutes correspondent Leslie Stahl with a look of surprise on her face after discovering that part of the computer system for Minuteman III requires data from an 8-inch floppy disk. What is wrong with that you ask? Well Minuteman III is the intercontinental ballistic missile defence system, a core component to the US nuclear deterrent system.

The 8-inch floppy disk format has been out of use for a very long time now, even it’s smaller and sleeker brothers such as the 3.5″ floppy drive you may have had on your computer 10 years ago has now become all but extinct. What’s even funnier is that the disk was marked with “Top Secret”, and the data on the disc is a vital component for the launch command delivery system for US missile forces. In fact, many of the systems that Stahl saw at the Wyoming US Air Force launch control center (LCC) are as old as the 8-inch floppy, dating way back to the 60’s and 70’s. Of course the lesson here is that if it isn’t broken, don’t fix it.

“A few years ago we did a complete analysis of our entire network,” said CBM forces commander Major General Jack Weinstein when speaking with 60 Minutes. “Cyber engineers found out that the system is extremely safe and extremely secure in the way it’s developed.” he added.

The Air Force base is currently upgrading their systems with a $19 million budget, with an additional $600 million next year. The old equipment has been doing a great job so far, but I’m not so sure I would want to keep sensitive information on such an ageing format, especially not information that is so important to national security and defense.

Thank you Arstechnica for providing us with this information.

Image courtesy of Arstechnica.

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  • Wayne

    I’d all but forgotten 8″ floppy’s ever existed. I remember aligning those drives with an oscilloscope under 50Hz flourescent lighting when I was a young technician. The disks themselves stored an enormous 800KB of data, 400KB either side. State of the art for the time. 🙂