AMERICAN officials have accused Chinese government hackers of compromising the computers of a US Navy contractor, stealing a large amount of highly sensitive data on undersea warfare, including plans for a supersonic anti-ship missile for use on US submarines.
The Washington Post quoted the unnamed US as saying officials as saying the breaches took place in January and February. Speaking on condition of anonymity, the officials said there was ongoing investigation led by the Navy and assisted by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI).
The hacked material comprised 614 gigabytes relating to a project known as Sea Dragon, as well as signals and sensor data, submarine radio room information relating to cryptographic systems and the Navy submarine development unit’s electronic warfare library.
The hackers targeted a contractor who works for the Naval Undersea Warfare Center, a military entity based in Newport, Rhode Island, the unnamed officials said without identifying the contractor, according to the Post on Friday.
Despite being housed on the contractor’s unclassified network, the data stolen was of a highly sensitive nature.
When aggregated, the materials could be considered classified, the officials said, which raises concerns about the US Navy’s ability to oversee contractors tasked with developing cutting-edge weapons.
The breach is widely observed to be part of China’s bid to gain an advantage in military technology and consolidate its capabilities to become a formidable Asian powerhouse.
The revelation also comes amid US President Donald Trump’s bid to shore up support from Beijing over North Korea’s plan to denuclerise, and as tensions persist between the US and China over trade and defense matters.
Former senator James M. Talent (R-Mo.), who is a member of the US-China Economic and Security Review Commission, told the Post that the breach is “very disturbing.”
“But it’s of a piece with what the Chinese have been doing.
They are completely focused on getting advanced weapons technology through all kinds of means. That includes stealing secrets from our defense contractors.”
“Per federal regulations, there are measures in place that require companies to notify the government when a ‘cyber incident’ has occurred that has actual or potential adverse effects on their networks that contain controlled unclassified information. It would be inappropriate to discuss further details at this time,” the US Navy said, according to Reuters.
The Chinese Embassy knows nothing about the reported hacking, an embassy spokesperson said, adding that the Chinese government “staunchly upholds cybersecurity, firmly opposes and combats all forms of cyber attacks in accordance with law.”
The newspaper said it had agreed to withhold some details about the compromised missile project after the Navy said their release could harm national security.