Chinese hackers reportedly steal sensitive submarine missile data from US Navy contractor

The breaches are alleged to have occurred in January and February

Mythili Sampathkumar
New York
Friday 08 June 2018 21:17
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China's first home-built aircraft carrier sets out from a port of Dalian for sea trials on 13 May 2018
China's first home-built aircraft carrier sets out from a port of Dalian for sea trials on 13 May 2018

Chinese government hackers are said to have infiltrated the computers of a US Navy contractor and stole sensitive warfare data.

Among the data stolen, the hackers took plans for a supersonic anti-ship missile for use on US submarines, the Washington Post reported, quoting unnamed US officials.

The apparent breaches in security actually occurred in January and February of this year and there has been an ongoing investigation into the matter led by the Navy with assistance from the FBI.

"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 Navy told Reuters.

The hackers are said to be targeted a contractor that works with the Naval Undersea Warfare Center based in Newport, Rhode Island. The contractor has not been publicly identified.

The project information - to the tune of 614 gigabytes - which was allegedly compromised was called Sea Dragon. Signals, sensor, and submarine radio room data were also believed to be hacked.

According to the newspaper, the Navy submarine development unit’s electronic warfare library was also compromised. Hundreds of systems - mechanical and software - have been put at risk as a result of the hacking.

These cover an area of water-based warfare which China - in its ongoing quest to gain military advantages over the US and grow its domination of the disputed South China Sea - has prioritised. Last May, Beijing launched its first domestically made aircraft carrier and it has quieter submarines. What China cannot build on their own, they are known to steal through cyberspace according to Admiral Philip S Davidson who leads US Indo-Pacific Command.

The newspaper has withheld information on the missile programme because the Navy indicated its release could undermine national security efforts. What is known about Sea Dragon is that it has “disruptive offensive capability” by “integrating an existing weapon system with an existing Navy platform,” according to the Defence Department.

The officials said the material, when aggregated, would be considered classified, a fact that raises concerns about the Navy’s ability to oversee contractors tasked with developing cutting-edge weapons,” the newspaper reported.

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