According to reports by The Washington Post, Chinese hackers hacked the computers of a US Navy Contractor and were able to steal hundreds of gigabytes of information about secret Navy projects.
Officials who spoke with the Post report that the incident happened back in January and February this year. They claim the target was an unnamed contractor who was working with the Naval Undersea Warfare Center, which the Navy uses to conduct “research, development, test and evaluation, engineering and fleet support center for submarines, autonomous underwater systems and offensive and defensive weapons systems associated with undersea warfare.”
These hackers were able to hijack 614 gigabytes of data from the contractor which were relating to a project called Sea Dragon. This project was explained by the Defense Department as a new “disruptive offensive “disruptive offensive capability” being integrated into “an existing weapons system with an existing Navy platform.” The Washington Post also referred to the Sea Dragon project as a “supersonic anti-ship missile” to be used aboard submarines. The Sea Dragon project commenced back in 2012 and was to begin testing in September this year. The Washington Post also adds that the hackers also stole “signals and sensor data, submarine radio room information relating to cryptographic systems, and the Navy submarine development unit’s electronic warfare library.”
New America Strategist P.W. Singer noted in his book “Cybersecurity and Cyberwar – What Everyone Needs to Know” that China has increased its espionage efforts in the past few years, with the People’s Liberation Army creating units whose focus is mainly on cyber attacks and espionage, and encouraging “patriotic hackers” to help put it on even footing with the superpowers that it now competes with — charges that China vehemently denies.
THIS NEW BREACH COMES AT A TIME AMIDST NEW MILITARY TENSIONS BETWEEN THE US AND CHINA
This new breach comes at a time amidst new tensions between the US and China. China has put a lot of effort in recent years to increase its amount of influence, laying claim on the South China Sea — part of the Pacific Ocean which is bordered by the Philipines, Vietnam, and China, performing military exercises and constructing artificial islands to help support its forces and to bolster its territorial claims. The results of these actions have been increased tensions between its neighbors and the US, which has its own naval presence in the region, something which China is against. Since the US operates in the area, the stealing of secrets of naval technology can cause huge problems if it is used to build defensive countermeasures or to develop a comparable weapons system.
There are many other weapons systems that Chinese hackers are believed to have compromised. These include the Patriot missile system, the Navy’s Aegis ballistic missile defense system, the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD), and many others. There are also cases where China developed systems that bore striking similarities to their US counterparts. In 2014 and 2015, Chinese hackers burgled into the US government’s Office of Personnel Management, stealing the personal data of over 4 million government workers.