Chinese Hackers Steal Plans To Dozens Of U.S. Weapons Systems

One of NASA's Global Hawk recon drones

NASA Dryden

The cheapest weapons program? Looting another nation’s R&D.

Chinese hackers have compromised designs for more than two dozen U.S. military weapons and technology programs, according to the confidential section of a Pentagon report on cyber security obtained by the Washington Post. These programs include the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, the Littoral Combat Ship, and a really awesome laser, among others. Combined, these represent decades of research and billions of dollars in development costs.

The list of compromised system designs and technologies comes from the nonpublic version of a Pentagon military and cyber security report. The Department of Defense released the public version of the report in January.

More stolen tech on the list: the vertical takeoff and landing V-22 Osprey, which spent decades in development. Drones (including the Global Hawk), armor, missiles, and torpedoes were also among the compromised systems. Some list items are sweeping categories-“electronic warfare” refers to multiple technologies and an entire doctrine of shutting down electronic communication and functionality in war.

Because the list of compromised systems is so long, and because “compromised” is a maddeningly imprecise term for looking at what exactly the hackers were able to glean from the system, security implications from the espionage are vague. But three things are certain: Any data on a weapon helps a researcher figure out how to counter it. It is far easier and cheaper to develop new technologies when piggy-backing on decades of expensive work. And a breach of this breadth and depth is profoundly troubling for American cybersecurity assets.


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