Chinese cyberattacks hit key US weapons systems. Are they still reliable?
A new report suggests that many advanced US weapons systems have been hacked, and experts say China was behind the cyberattacks. If there were a war with China, the weapons might not be reliable.
Dozens of key US weapons system designs and technologies have been compromised by Chinese hackers, creating fresh uncertainty over America’s warfighting capabilities in any future conflict in Asia, according to a defense advisory group study and defense policy experts.Skip to next paragraph
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The laundry list of US weapons systems whose files have been accessed during the past decade by Chinese hackers includes some of the nation’s most expensive and exotic programs. The list was contained in a confidential version of a Defense Science Board report, according to The Washington Post.
The list includes the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense missile system, the V-22 Osprey tilt-rotor aircraft, Patriot Advanced Capability-3 antimissile system, along with the Global Hawk unmanned aerial vehicle, the Aegis ballistic missile defense system, and the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter.
The long-term impact, experts say, could be to give China an edge in any confrontation as well as speeding deployment of advanced military technology that will cost it billions less to develop, defense experts say.
The unclassified version of the Defense Science Board report entitled, “Resilient Military Systems and the Advanced Cyber Threat,” which did not contain the list and barely mentions China, was released in January. But defense officials, speaking anonymously, told the Post that Chinese hackers are behind the attacks on most of the systems on the list in the restricted version.
“The Defense Science Board, a senior advisory group made up of government and civilian experts, did not accuse the Chinese of stealing the designs,” the newspaper reported. “But senior military and industry officials with knowledge of the breaches said that the vast majority were part of a widening Chinese campaign of espionage against US defense contractors and government agencies.”
Earlier this month, the Pentagon went on record with another report, this one to Congress, saying that Chinese cyberespionage of weapons systems is a key part of China’s effort to vault itself forward. That report for the first time specifically cited China’s government and military as directly responsible for cyberthefts involving US weapons systems.
“China is using its computer network exploitation capability to support intelligence collection against the US diplomatic, economic, and defense industrial base sectors that support US national defense programs,” the unusually blunt report to Congress said. “The information targeted could potentially be used to benefit China’s defense industry, high technology industries, policymaker interest in US leadership thinking on key China issues, and military planners building a picture of US network defense networks, logistics, and related military capabilities that could be exploited during a crisis.”