Sign up FAST! Login

Confidential report lists U.S. weapons system designs compromised by Chinese cyberspies - The Washington Post


Stashed in: China!, International Incidents, China

To save this post, select a stash from drop-down menu or type in a new one:

The confidential list of compromised weapons system designs and technologies represents the clearest look at what the Chinese are suspected of targeting. When the list was read to independent defense experts, they said they were shocked by the extent of the cyber-espionage and the potential for compromising U.S. defenses.

“That’s staggering,” said Mark Stokes, executive director of the Project 2049 Institute, a think tank that focuses on Asia security issues. “These are all very critical weapons systems, critical to our national security. When I hear this in totality, it’s breathtaking.”

The experts said the cybertheft creates three major problems. First, access to advanced U.S. designs gives China an immediate operational edge that could be exploited in a conflict. Second, it accelerates China’s acquisition of advanced military technology and saves billions in development costs. And third, the U.S. designs can be used to benefit China’s own defense industry. There are long-standing suspicions that China’s theft of designs for the F-35 fighter allowed Beijing to develop its version much faster.

“You’ve seen significant improvements in Chinese military capabilities through their willingness to spend, their acquisitions of advanced Russian weapons, and from their cyber-espionage campaign,” said James A. Lewis, a cyber-policy expert at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. “Ten years ago, I used to call the PLA [People’s Liberation Army] the world’s largest open-air military museum. I can’t say that now.”

The public version of the science board report noted that such cyber-espionage and cyber-sabotage could impose “severe consequences for U.S. forces engaged in combat.” Those consequences could include severed communication links critical to the operation of U.S. forces. Data corruption could misdirect U.S. operations. Weapons could fail to operate as intended. Planes, satellites or drones could crash, the report said.

In other words, Stokes said, “if they have a better sense of a THAAD design or PAC-3 design, then that increases the potential of their ballistic missiles being able to penetrate our or our allies’ missile defenses.”

Winslow T. Wheeler, director of the Straus Military Reform Project at the Project on Government Oversight, made a similar point. “If they got into the combat systems, it enables them to understand it to be able to jam it or otherwise disable it,” he said. “If they’ve got into the basic algorithms for the missile and how they behave, somebody better get out a clean piece of paper and start to design all over again.”

The list did not describe the extent or timing of the penetrations. Nor did it say whether the theft occurred through the computer networks of the U.S. government, defense contractors or subcontractors.

Privately, U.S. officials say that senior Pentagon officials are frustrated by the scale of cybertheft from defense contractors, who routinely handle sensitive classified data. The officials said concerns have been expressed by Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and Adm. James A. Winnefeld Jr., the vice chairman, as well as Gen. Keith Alexander, director of the National Security Agency.

As a nation we need to take these threats more seriously.

You May Also Like: