Chinese Hackers Access Advanced US Weapons Systems
May 28, 2013

Report Claims Chinese Hackers Compromised Advanced US Weapons Systems

Peter Suciu for — Your Universe Online

Chinese hackers may have accessed designs for many of the United State´s most sensitive advanced weapons systems The Washington Post reported Tuesday. Among the more than two dozen major weapons systems that were breached were the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter and the PAC-3 Patriot missile system, according to a previously undisclosed section of a confidential report prepared for Pentagon leaders by the Defense Science Board.

A public version of the report, titled “Resilient Military Systems and the Advanced Cyber Threat,” noted that there is a continued threat posed by lax cyber security.

“After conducting an 18-month study, this Task Force concluded that the cyber threat is serious and that the United States cannot be confident that our critical Information Technology (IT) systems will work under attack from a sophisticated and well-resourced opponent utilizing cyber capabilities in combination with all of our military and intelligence capabilities,” the report noted.

“[The Department of Defence´s] dependence on this vulnerable technology is a magnet to U.S. opponents,” the report added.

The confidential portion, which was obtained by The Washington Post, further noted that a list of weapons systems — including the F-35 and information related to drones and electronic warfare — may have been accessed by hackers working for the Chinese military. The information these hackers obtained could be used by the Chinese to jumpstart its own development of advanced weapons systems.

While China was not specifically named in the report the paper noted that senior defense officials said it was part of a larger campaign that originated in China. “Senior military and industry officials with knowledge of the breaches said the vast majority were part of a widening Chinese campaign of espionage against US defense contractors and government agencies,” the Post reported.

Many of the weapon systems that were reportedly compromised are used to form the backbone of America´s regional missile defense throughout Asia, Europe and even the Persian Gulf. These include the aforementioned PAC-3 — advanced Patriot missile system — along with the US Army´s Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD), a system designed to shoot down ballistic missiles; and even the US Navy´s Aegis ballistic-missile defense system.

Other systems specifically named by the report include the F/A-18 fighter jet, the V-22 Osprey, the Black Hawk helicopter and the Navy´s new Littoral Combat Ship. The latter is designed for patrolling waters close to shore.

It also appears that the United States was not the only nation to have its military systems compromised. The UK´s Daily Mail also reported that Chinese hackers may have accessed blueprints for Australia´s new spy headquarters — a building that hasn´t even opened. According to news reports in Australia, hackers may have stolen the floor plans for the still-to-be-opened $630-million headquarters for the Australia Security Intelligence Organisation, that nation´s domestic spy agency.

In that attack, hackers accessed the computers of a construction contractor and reportedly gained access not only to the building layouts but also the plans and locations of computer networks. This could make the agency´s own HQ vulnerable to future cyber attacks.

These are just the latest in a series of attacks believed to have originated from China. A report released earlier this year by security firm Mandiant noted that a special brand of the People´s Liberation Army (PLA) called Unit 61398, and which is located in one 12-story building on the edge of Shanghai, had been responsible for a number of cyber attacks in recent months.