Spies breach Pentagon fighter-jet project: report

Apr 21, 2009

Computer spies have hacked into the Pentagon's most costly weapons program, a US newspaper reported Tuesday, raising the prospect of adversaries gaining access to top-secret security data.

Citing current and former government officials, The Wall Street Journal said cyber-intruders were able to copy several terabytes of data on the 300-billion-dollar Joint Strike Fighter project, which may make it easier to defend against the aircraft, also known as the F-35 Lightning II.

A terabyte is 1,000 gigabytes.

The officials said similar breaches were recorded at the US Air Force's air traffic-control system in recent months, while the Journal had also earlier reported that spies hacked into computers used to manage the US electrical distribution system and other infrastructure.

The latest attacks signal an escalation in attempts by intruders to gain access to vital US security data over the past six months -- or at least US awareness of such attacks, a former official said.

"There's never been anything like it," the former official was quoted as saying, adding that other military agencies as well as private contracting companies have been affected.

"It's everything that keeps this country going," he added.

It was not immediately clear how severe the breach was, or exactly who the hackers were, but the most on the fighter project is reportedly kept on secure computers not connected to the Internet.

The newspaper cited unnamed former US officials saying the attack appeared to have originated in China.

A recent Pentagon report stated that China's military had made "steady progress" in developing techniques for improved online warfare, as part of an effort to compensate for an underdeveloped military, the Journal said.

Earlier this month China denied the Journal's report that Chinese and Russian hackers had attempted to plant viruses in the US .

(c) 2009 AFP

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User comments : 8

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laserdaveb
not rated yet Apr 21, 2009
so is this report inferring secured servers not connected to the Internet were compromised remotely?
austux
not rated yet Apr 21, 2009
Since the US power grid does not run on MS-Windows, the viruses will be a waste of time. (-:
Bob_B
not rated yet Apr 21, 2009
Back in the 90's (or earlier) it was shown that with enough redundant signals packets can be sent and received between a pc and a printer (Novell's NEST project).

I've wondered about hacking the grid. Where do the packets stop? Could a hacker get into the system and shut down the grid?
zevkirsh
4 / 5 (1) Apr 21, 2009
good, maybe that will give us reason to cancel this nonsense. our economy is about to force us to anyways. complete bankruptcy of the u.s. awaits us. every family now owes over 100k in national debt.
gopher65
4 / 5 (1) Apr 21, 2009
Zevkirsh: Many other countries have a higher per capita debt than the US. As long as the debt stays below 150% of the GDP you're fine (any higher than that and the interest payments become problematic).

Of course, personally I hate deficits and think that they should only be run in times of extreme need (war, natural disasters, preventing an asteroid impact, etc). But they aren't going to flatten the country completely.

Basically, if you're running with a fiat currency system then a deficit simply causes inflation (eventually). That leads to the government's debt as a percentage of the total economy decreasing, and the value of everyone else's money decreasing in proportion. So it just ends up being a form of hidden taxation. Bad for the economy (and ultimately pretty mildly bad at that), but not the end of the world or anything.
gopher65
3 / 5 (1) Apr 21, 2009
This is one of the (very few) ways that a fiat currency system is superior to a standard based currency system.

If you mismanage government finances with a standard based currency you're completely screwed. If you do it with a fiat currency you can get out of it if you're careful. Fiat currency systems are much more forgiving to mismanagement than standard based systems.
GrayMouser
5 / 5 (2) Apr 26, 2009
How long does it take to transfer several terabytes of unclassified data over the internet? Unnoticed?
BTW, attaching computers with classified data to the internet requires cryptographic boxes, much like a VPN, so that data can't migrate between classified and unclassified networks (unclassified to classified is also generally prohibited.)
gopher65
4 / 5 (1) Apr 26, 2009
Good point GrayMouser, I wondered that myself. Several terabytes? Even over the fastest connection that's going to take long enough for someone to notice what's happening.

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