US weapons designs hacked by Chinese, report claims (Update 2)

An aerial view on December 26, 2011 of the Pentagon building in Washington
An aerial view of the Pentagon building in Washington. The Pentagon advisory report stopped short of accusing the Chinese of stealing the designs, but the conclusions help explain the ramped-up US warnings to the Chinese government.

Chinese hackers have gained access to secret designs for a slew of sophisticated US weapons programs, officials said Tuesday, possibly jeopardizing the American military's technological edge.

The breaches were part of a broad Chinese campaign of espionage against top US defense contractors and government agencies, officials said, confirming a Washington Post account of a Pentagon report.

The Defense Science Board, a senior advisory group with government and civilian experts, concluded that digital hackers had gained access to designs for two dozen major weapons systems critical to missile defenses, combat aircraft and naval ships, according to a Pentagon document cited by the Post.

The cyber spying gave China access to advanced technology and could weaken the US military's advantage in the event of a conflict, the board said.

The Pentagon advisory report stopped short of accusing Beijing of stealing the designs, but the conclusions help explain recent American warnings to the Chinese government.

"It's not clear how much of our stuff they got," a defense official told AFP on condition of anonymity.

The revelations of cyber espionage coincided with a report that Chinese hackers had stolen top-secret blueprints of Australia's new intelligence agency headquarters, including the layout for communications systems and server locations.

US officials are increasingly worried over digital spying from China and the White House said the issue would be high on the agenda when Chinese President Xi Jinping meets President Barack Obama next week.

"It is an issue that we raise at every level in our meetings with our Chinese counterparts," spokesman Jay Carney told reporters.

"And I'm sure will be a topic of discussion when the president meets with President Xi in California in early June."

The array of weapons designs that were targeted included the advanced Patriot missile system, a US Army program for shooting down ballistic missiles, and the Navy's Aegis missile defense system.

Designs for combat aircraft and ships, including the stealthy new F-35 fighter, the F/A-18 warplane, the V-22 tilt-rotor Osprey, the Black Hawk helicopter and the Navy's new Littoral Combat Ship, were also targeted.

The weapons programs affected are built by major defense contractors including Boeing, Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman and Raytheon.

Northrop Grumman spokesman Randy Belote said "the number of attempts to breach our networks are increasing at an alarming rate."

The list of hacked US weapons programs was outlined in a previously undisclosed section of the earlier report by the Defense Science Board.

A public version of the report had warned that America was ill-prepared in the case of a full-scale cyber war.

In a separate report sent to Congress earlier this month, the Pentagon said China's cyber spying was aimed at extracting information about the US government's foreign policy and military plans.

The espionage could assist the Chinese military in "building a picture of US network defense networks, logistics, and related military capabilities that could be exploited during a crisis," it said.

A cyber security expert and former US official, James Lewis, said it was unclear when the breaches took place, but noted that "people did wake up to this issue in the last couple of years and made it harder."

Before that, "between 1999 and 2009 it was an open door for Chinese (cyber) espionage," said Lewis, a fellow at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a Washington think tank.

But Pentagon spokesman George Little played down the report and said the department had taken steps to help contractors counter digital spying

"We maintain full confidence in our weapons platforms," Little said.

"Suggestions that cyber intrusions have somehow led to the erosion of our capabilities or technological edge are incorrect."

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© 2013 AFP

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May 28, 2013
And we trust the private sector? Gag me!

May 28, 2013
define less effective when the US spends 700 billion a year on military and china spends 166 billion a year and has almost no navy to speak of??

May 28, 2013
Two words: double envelopment.

May 28, 2013
They also hacked their economy... with their own support.

May 28, 2013
Why spend 700 billion a year when you can just steal all the info from the guy that does!

May 28, 2013
"If the report is accurate, "it means the US military is less effective and the Chinese military is more effective," said James Lewis, a cybersecurity expert at the Center for Strategic and International Studies."

The most productive innovation occurs when competitors are on an equal footing. Brits gave the soviets a rolls royce jet engine after ww2. They were given US bomber designs. Oppenheimer himself sent them nuclear weapons secrets, along with other spies in govt and industry.

The resulting parity and ensuing R+D gave both sides an overwhelming superiority over the entire world.

And both sides had access to german-developed ICBM and cruise missile tech which had been proven in the only way possible - in the context of war. This was no mistake. In retrospect we can see that these weapons systems were the result of a cooperative effort involving the allies, the soviets, AND the germans, to ensure that the wars would produce a world under complete control.

2 Sides - 1 Coin.

May 29, 2013
First of all, secret data is/should be maintained on a computer with no possible outside network connection whether routed or not, second I'm sure we all are smart enough here to know how easy it is to encrypt in a way that is impossible to decrypt without a hard copy of the key at hand so that leaves two options....either the US military has been replaced by total retards or this leak was intentional. I tend to lean on the intentional option and it makes me wonder what the ulterior motive is. Anyone with ideas as to what those motives could be? Or should that be kept secret? :D

May 29, 2013
This is a bigger problem than we all realize if we are to believe the US is as vulnerable to cyber spying/attacks as stated.
If we were in a state of war and the enemy gained access to our systems, this would be a potential game changer to the enemies advantage no matter the size or power of the military force. Intercepting enemy communications and movements in the previous world wars, made many changes to the outcome. In a new war, location or communications may not be as critical this time. The ability for the enemy to take over control of our drones, ships, power stations etc. now cyber warfare has a real value. Does it really matter how large the ship or number of tanks that have been built with the largest military budget in the world if at the point of conflict the enemy can say thank you very much for your hard work building your weapons and our economy, we will take control of your systems now.
Game Over - A war won without a missile fired.

May 29, 2013
I think what happens is that the US military uses contractors and other companies to assist in the design and manufacture of these weapons, and thats where things are more open to hacking. Its easy to keep things secure within one system, but when you have multiple systems managed by multiple people, holes are bound to open up, hacks can be missed. I work in IT and I know the whole system is only as strong as its weakest link. Think about it, is it easier to hack a Pentagon server or a Boeing server? Why not just get a virus on a home PC of a Boeing employee? Just an example. The world is so connected, its difficult to keep it super secure without increasing IT costs astronomically. Maybe we need super tight National Firewalls like China!!

Jun 01, 2013
Well leaks have been used before. Remember the Russian Concorde? It kept crashing so was abandoned by the Soviets. The English intentionally let the Soviets get hold of incorrect plans for the plane, so the Soviets would waste resources on a plane that would never work properly. This could be happening here, or the Chinese might actually have REAL plans. Either way, we'll have to wait an see. If the Chinese can use this tech to further their Space endeavors, then I'm all for it, but if they wish to wage war, then of course it's a BAD thing that has happened here.
This planet is doomed unless we can organise a planet wide Governing system so that technology can be shared by all, and eliminate the wasted resources spent on repeated invention of the wheel.

Jun 01, 2013
Bankers start all wars. In peacetime they hire traitors to leak secrets to level the playing field. This ensures the next war is more expensive and more profitable for the banksters. For an investor, war is the most profitable business because it is glorified theft

Jun 01, 2013
@TheKnowItall is right. Sensitive data should never be placed where it can be accessed through the World Wide Web. In fact, I don't believe that it is, and that any plans that were obtained through cyber-spying are no doubt either totally phony or totally useless plants, intended to mislead and misdirect. My practical side maintains that this must be so. I mean, we've all heard that "military intelligence" is an oxymoron, but oh, God, please tell me it ain't so.

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