Hackers 'got close to high-tech jet programme'

Cyber hackers nearly two years ago breached a high-tech jet fighter program developed for the Pentagon by Lockheed Martin, but classified information was not compromised, a senior defence official said.

No details about the attacks were provided. The defence official spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitive nature of the issue.



In confirming the attack on Lockheed's F-35 Lightning II program, also known as the Joint Strike Fighter, the defence official said it is unclear who did it, or whether it was an attempt at corporate thievery or a hacker trying to harm the program.



The Pentagon is expected to pay about $300 billion to buy nearly 2,500 of the F-35 jets for the Air Force, Navy and Marines.



The cyber spying revelations come as the White House is preparing to release its review on the nation's cyber security. There have been increasingly frequent warnings that US networks are at risk and repeatedly are being probed by foreign governments, criminals or other groups.

Lockheed officials issued a carefully worded statement saying that "to our knowledge there has never been any classified information breach" but that the company's systems are continually attacked, and there are measures in place to detect and stop the hacking.



The statement did not specifically deny a breach into unclassified information or less sensitive areas of the program. The cyber attacks were first reported by The Wall Street Journal.



Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman said Tuesday that Defence Department networks are probed repeatedly every day, and the number of intrusion attempts have more than doubled.



While he would not discuss the Lockheed incident, he said there obviously are some computer programs that are far less sensitive or classified than others. Whitman cautioned that hackers' ability to get information out of military systems should not be overestimated.



Whitman described a layered approach to the government's protections, saying that as the information becomes more sensitive, it is more walled off and safeguarded.



"We view cyberspace as a war-fighting domain ... and we are going to defend it and protect it," Whitman said. "The key is to stay one step ahead of your enemy."



Defence Secretary Robert Gates told CBS News: "We are under cyberattack virtually all the time, every day here. We think we have pretty good control of our sensitive information, both with respect to intelligence and equipment systems."



Gates said he is dramatically increasing the resources for cyber experts,



"We're going to more than quadruple the number of experts in this area," he said. "This is going to be an enduring problem."

Another official familiar with the program said that the more classified portions of the fighter program are digitally walled off and have heightened protections built in.



That official added that outside cyber scans of the fighter program are not new, and that they could well involve subcontractors and suppliers around the world. Those scans may not involve critical, classified systems, the officials said.



Lockheed Martin is the lead contractor on the jet, with a number of other companies that include Northrop Grumman and BAE Systems making parts and systems for the plane.



According to US counterintelligence officials, this is not the first military jet program that has been hacked.



During a speech in Texas this month, Joel Brenner, head of the US Office of the National Counterintelligence Executive, said that officials have seen counterfeit computer chips "make their way into US military fighter aircraft."



Brenner added: "You don't sneak counterfeit chips into another nation's aircraft to steal data. When it's done intentionally, it's done to degrade systems, or to have the ability to do so at a time of one's choosing."

His comments were not related to the F-35, according to administration officials. Brenner also has warned that careless, laid-off or disaffected employees can often be the root of corporate cyber leaks. Foreign governments or groups, he said, plan computer attacks that take advantage of sloppy workers or bad network management practices.



In a series of recent speeches, Brenner has repeatedly raised the alarm that foreign governments and other groups are accessing government systems and installing malicious software.



"The Chinese are relentless and don't seem to care about getting caught. And we have seen Chinese network operations inside certain of our electricity grids. Do I worry about those grids, and about air traffic control systems, water supply systems, and so on? You bet I do," Brenner told an audience at the University of Texas at Austin.



Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Tradewind Recruitment: Geography Teacher

£90 - £140 per day: Tradewind Recruitment: On behalf of a successful academy i...

Investigo: Finance Business Partner

£45000 - £50000 per annum: Investigo: My client, a global leader in providing ...

Austen Lloyd: Commercial Property Solicitor - West London

Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: WEST LONDON - An excellent new opportunity wit...

Recruitment Genius: Florist Shop Manager

£8 - £10 per hour: Recruitment Genius: A Florist Shop Manager is required to m...

Day In a Page

Syria crisis: Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more refugees as one young mother tells of torture by Assad regime

Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more Syrian refugees

One young mother tells of torture by Assad regime
The enemy within: People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back – with promising results

The enemy within

People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back
'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

Survivors of the Nazi concentration camp remember its horror, 70 years on
Autumn/winter menswear 2015: The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore

Autumn/winter menswear 2015

The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore
'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

Army general planning to come out
Iraq invasion 2003: The bloody warnings six wise men gave to Tony Blair as he prepared to launch poorly planned campaign

What the six wise men told Tony Blair

Months before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, experts sought to warn the PM about his plans. Here, four of them recall that day
25 years of The Independent on Sunday: The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century

25 years of The Independent on Sunday

The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century
Homeless Veterans appeal: 'Really caring is a dangerous emotion in this kind of work'

Homeless Veterans appeal

As head of The Soldiers' Charity, Martin Rutledge has to temper compassion with realism. He tells Chris Green how his Army career prepared him
Wu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own the only copies of their latest albums

Smash hit go under the hammer

It's nice to pick up a new record once in a while, but the purchasers of two latest releases can go a step further - by buying the only copy
Geeks who rocked the world: Documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry

The geeks who rocked the world

A new documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry
Belle & Sebastian interview: Stuart Murdoch reveals how the band is taking a new direction

Belle & Sebastian is taking a new direction

Twenty years ago, Belle & Sebastian was a fey indie band from Glasgow. It still is – except today, as prime mover Stuart Murdoch admits, it has a global cult following, from Hollywood to South Korea
America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

These days in the US things are pretty much stuck where they are, both in politics and society at large, says Rupert Cornwell
A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A veteran of the Fifties campaigns is inspiring a new generation of activists
Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

A C Benson called him 'a horrid little fellow', George Orwell would have shot him, but what a giant he seems now, says DJ Taylor
Growing mussels: Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project

Growing mussels

Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project