Chinese Hackers Spying on U.S. Weapons Programs

By Dialogo
May 30, 2013

Chinese hackers have gained access to secret designs for a slew of sophisticated U.S. weapons programs, officials said on May 28, possibly jeopardizing the U.S. Military’s technological edge.

The breaches were part of a broad Chinese campaign of espionage against top U.S. 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 U.S. 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 U.S. 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 against U.S. contractors 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.

U.S. 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 in early June.

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.

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

The Pentagon said in a statement that the department had “growing concerns” about cyber spying, which posed a threat to “the competitive edge of U.S. businesses like those in the Defense Industrial base.”

A cyber security expert and former senior U.S. official, James Lewis, said if the report is accurate, “it means the U.S. Military is less effective and the Chinese military is more effective.”