In one of the worst cyber attacks in recent memory, Chinese cyber spies have hacked the plans for a number of U.S. military weapon and vehicle designs including the most expensive design in history. The Pentagon sent a release on Monday to The Washington Post claiming that Chinese government-backed spies were able to penetrate a network containing the classified information.China traditionally denies any allegations of cyber attacks. Here's what you need to know.
1. The Most Expensive Weapons System Ever Was Hacked
Among the designs stolen was the F-35 Join Strike Fighter, often referred to as the most expense weapon design ever produced. According to The Washington Post the project is on track to cost $1.4 trillion. This is not the first time the project underwent a cyber attack. It also had plans stolen in 2007.
2. They Got Designs for New Military Vehicles
Although The Washington Post did not list all of the weapons designs that were hacked in this attack, the military source did identify a number of brand new combat vehicles including the F/A-18 fighter jet, the V-22 Osprey, the popular Black Hawk helicopter, and a brand new Naval vessel designed to "patrol waters close to shore."
3. The Pentagon's Missile Defense System is Compromised
Hackers also gained access to the plans and designs for the systems and weapons that form the "backbone" of the missile defense system designed by the Pentagon to protect parts of Asia, Europe, and the Persian Gulf from missile attacks. According to the Post's source:
The designs included those for the advanced Patriot missile system, known as PAC-3; an Army system for shooting down ballistic missiles, known as the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense, or THAAD; and the Navy’s Aegis ballistic-missile defense system.
4. We Do Not Know Which Networks Were Compromised — Contractor or Government
According to The Washington Post the United States government will not say whose system the Chinese spies hacked. According to The Washington Post the penetration could have occurred in the networks on the U.S. government, defense contractors or even subcontractors. The article quotes an unnamed senior military official who complained about the level of cyber security among contractors saying,
In many cases, they don’t know they’ve been hacked until the FBI comes knocking on their door.
However, the Australian Broadcasting Company has reported that many Australian based companies were targeted including Bluescope Steel and the military and civilian communications manufacturer Codan.
5. China is Rapidly Trying to Modernize Its Military
Over the last ten years, the world has witnessed an incredible transformation in the China's People's Liberation Army. It has been suspected that China has been violating international intellectual property right laws in order to steal and replicate some of the world's best military technology. The Washington Post's anonymous informant was quoted as saying about yesterday's hack:
This is billions of dollars of combat advantage for China. They’ve just saved themselves 25 years of research and development. It’s nuts.
6. There is a New Law That Hopes to Prevent This
The recent 2013 Defense Authorization Act is proof of an attempt on the side of the U.S. government to try to prevent cyber attacks such as yesterdays. The Act, which is now stalled, has a provision that requires all contractors for the Defense Department that hold classified information to report all breaches of security and allow the government the right to investigate the breach.
You can read all 681 pages of the Defense Authorization Act below:
7. The Australian Government Also Was Hacked
Along with all of the American information stolen by the Chinese hackers was the secret plans to Australia's new intelligence headquarters. The longstanding construction project, which has been stalled recently due to budget problems, would house intelligence operations for a joint venture with the United States and Great Britain. Australian officials are refusing to confirm or deny the attack but Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard did call the report made by the Australian Broadcasting Corporation "inaccurate."
8.President Obama Meets With the Chinese President Next Month
The Washington Post reported that President Obama is expected to bring up the issue of Chinese government-backed cyber attacks next month when he meets with Chinese President Xi Jinping next month in California. The trip, and expected reprimand, comes during a rising tide of American criticism of Chinese cyber attacks.
9. A Report Says the U.S. is Not Ready for Cyber War
An advisory council of military personnel and and civilians known as the Defense Science Board published a report late last year explaining why the United States is not prepared for the new age of cyber espionage and warfare. You can read the full report here:
10. The Attack is a Major Risk to American Lives
According to The Washington Post and their government sources, the hack could potentially become a major risk to American lives. In a military conflict, the plans stolen by China could not only provide advanced weaponry to enemy combatants, but could also provide vital intelligence as to the weaknesses of American weapons, information about methods of communication, and a ways to corrupt electronic data.
Here is a list a more complete list of the information compromised via The Washington Post:
Terminal High Altitude Area Defense
Patriot Advanced Capability-3
Extended Area Protection and Survivability System (EAPS)
Advanced Harpoon Weapon Control System
Long-term Mine Reconnaissance System
Navy antenna mechanisms
Global Freight Management System
Micro Air Vehicle
Brigade Combat Team Modernization
Aegis Ballistic Missile Defense System
USMC Tracked Combat Vehicles
Warfighter Information Network-Tactical (WIN-T)
T700 Family of Engines
Full Authority Digital Engine Controller (FADEC)
UH-60 Black Hawk
AMRAAM (AIM-120 Advanced Medium-Range Air-to-Air Missile)
Affordable Weapons System
Littoral Combat Ship
Navy Standard Missile (SM-2,3,6)
F/A and EA-18
Mk54 Light Weight Torpedo
UAV video system
Specific Emitter identification
Dual Use Avionics
Fuze/Munitions safety and development
Electronic Intelligence Processing
Tactical Data Links
Advanced Signal Processing Technologies for Radars
Nanostructured Metal Matrix Composite for Light Weight Ballistic Armor
Vision-aided Urban Navigation & Collision Avoidance for Class I Unmanned Air Vehicles (UAV)
Space Surveillance Telescope
IR Search and Track systems
Electronic Warfare systems
Electromagnetic Aircraft Launch
Side Scan sonar
Mode 5 IFF
Export Control, ITAR, Distribution Statement B,C,D Technical Information
CAD drawings, 3D models, schematics
Vendor/supply chain data
PII (email addresses, SSN, credit card numbers, passwords, etc.)
Attendee lists for program reviews and meetings