The Associated Press
Published — Thursday 30 May 2013
Last update 30 May 2013 3:43 am
WASHINGTON: New revelations that China used cyberattacks to access data from nearly 40 US weapons programs and almost 30 other defense technologies have increased pressure on American leaders to take more strident action against Beijing to stem the persistent breaches.
The disclosure, which was included in a Defense Science Board report released earlier this year but is only now being discussed publicly, comes as Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel heads to Southeast Asia, where he will discuss the escalating cyberthreat with counterparts from a number of area nations.
While officials have been warning for years about China’s cyber espionage efforts aimed at US military and high-tech programs, the breadth of the list underscored how routine the attacks have become. And, as the US looks to grow its military presence in the Asia Pacific, it heightens worries that China can use the information to blunt America’s military superiority and keep pace with emerging technologies.
“It introduces uncertainty on how well the weapons may work, and it means we may have to redo weapons systems,” said James Lewis, a cybersecurity expert at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. “If they know how it works precisely, they will be able to evade it and figure out how to better beat our systems.” A chart included in the science board’s report laid out what it called a partial list of 37 breached programs, which included the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense weapon — a land-based missile defense system that was recently deployed to Guam to help counter the North Korean threat. Other programs include the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, the F-22 Raptor fighter jet, and the hybrid MV-22 Osprey, which can take off and land like a helicopter and fly like an airplane.
The report also listed another 29 broader defense technologies that have been compromised, including drone video systems and high-tech avionics. The information was gathered more than two years ago, so some of the data is dated and a few of the breaches — such as the F-35 — had actually already become public.
The details of the breaches were first reported by The Washington Post.
According to a defense official, the report is based on more than 50 briefings that members of the board’s task force received from senior leaders in the Pentagon, the State Department, the intelligence community, national laboratories and business. The official was not authorized to discuss the report publicly so spoke on condition of anonymity.