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Pentagon: The Chinese stole our newest weapons

Pentagon: The Chinese stole our newest weapons

Reuters / Carlos Barria

The designs for more than two dozen major weapons systems used by the United States military have fallen into the hands of the Chinese, US Department of Defense officials say.

Blueprints for the Pentagon’s most advanced weaponry, including the Black Hawk helicopter and the brand new Littoral Combat Ship used by the Navy, have all been compromised, the Defense Science Board claims in a new confidential report.

The Washington Post acknowledged late Monday that they have seen a copy of the report and confirmed that the Chinese now have the know-how to emulate some of the Pentagon’s most sophisticated programs.

“This is billions of dollars of combat advantage for China,” a senior military official not authorized to speak on the record told Post reporters. “They’ve just saved themselves 25 years of research and development.”

“It’s nuts,” the source said of the report.

The Defense Science Board, a civilian advisory committee within the Pentagon, fell short of accusing the Chinese of stealing the designs. However, the Post’s report comes on the heels of formal condemnation courtesy of the DoD issued only earlier this month.

“In 2012, numerous computer systems around the world, including those owned by the US government, continued to be targeted for intrusions, some of which appear to be attributable directly to the Chinese government and military,” the Defense Department alleged in a previous report.

Ellen Nakashima, the Post reporter who detailed the DSB analysis this week, wrote that the computer systems at the Pentagon may not have necessarily been breached. Instead, rather, she suggested that the defense contractors who built these weapons programs have likely been subjected to a security breach. US officials speaking on condition of anonymity, she reported, said that a closed door meeting last year ended with evidence being presented of major defense contractors suffering from intrusions. When reached for comment, the largest defense contractors — Boeing, Lockheed Martin, Raytheon and Northrop Grumman — all refused to weigh in.

Chinese hackers have previously been accused of waging cyberattacks on a number of US entities, including billion-dollar corporations and governmental departments. In 2007 it was reported that China accumulated the blueprints for the Pentagon’s F-35 fighter jets, the most expensive weapons program ever created, but the latest news from the DSB decries that much more has been compromised.

According to the Post, the plans for the advanced Patriot missile system, an Army anti-ballistic program and a number of aircraft have all ended up in the hands of the Chinese. The result could mean the People’s Republic is working towards recreating the hallmarks of America’s military might for their own offensive purposes, while also putting China in a position where even the most advanced weaponry in the world won’t be able to withstand complex defensive capabilities once those projects are reverse engineered.

“If they got into the combat systems, it enables them to understand it to be able to jam it or otherwise disable it,” Winslow T. Wheeler, director of the Straus Military Reform Project at the Project on Government Oversight, told the Post. “If they’ve got into the basic algorithms for the missile and how they behave, somebody better get out a clean piece of paper and start to design all over again.”

Mandiant, a US security firm located outside of Washington, reported earlier this year that the China has enlisted an elite squadron of cyber warrior to attack American computer systems and conduct espionage on behalf of the People’s Liberation Army. When the report was released in February, Mandiant said the PLA’s elusive Unit 61398 has successfully compromised the networks of more than 141 companies across 20 major industries, including Coca-Cola and a Canadian utility company. Those hacks reportedly subsided after Mandiant went public with their claims, but earlier this month the firm said those attacks have since been renewed.

“They dialed it back for a little while, though other groups that also wear uniforms didn’t even bother to do that,” CEO Kevin Mandia told the New York Times recently. “I think you have to view this as the new normal.”

On their part, China has adamantly denied all claims that they’ve waged attacks on US networks. Following Mandiant’s initial report, a spokesperson for China’s foreign ministry said the claims were “irresponsible and unprofessional.”

“Hacking attacks are transnational and anonymous,” Hong Lei said. “Determining their origins are extremely difficult. We don’t know how the evidence in this so-called report can be tenable.” SOURCEu

Electricity Grid in U.S. Penetrated By Chinese Spies

Electricity Grid in U.S. Penetrated By Spies

By SIOBHAN GORMAN

WASHINGTON — Cyberspies have penetrated the U.S. electrical grid and left behind software programs that could be used to disrupt the system, according to current and former national-security officials.

The spies came from China, Russia and other countries, these officials said, and were believed to be on a mission to navigate the U.S. electrical system and its controls. The intruders haven’t sought to damage the power grid or other key infrastructure, but officials warned they could try during a crisis or war.

The Chinese have attempted to map our infrastructure, such as the electrical grid,” said a senior intelligence official. “So have the Russians.”

The espionage appeared pervasive across the U.S. and doesn’t target a particular company or region, said a former Department of Homeland Security official. “There are intrusions, and they are growing,” the former official said, referring to electrical systems. “There were a lot last year.”

Many of the intrusions were detected not by the companies in charge of the infrastructure but by U.S. intelligence agencies, officials said. Intelligence officials worry about cyber attackers taking control of electrical facilities, a nuclear power plant or financial networks via the Internet.

Authorities investigating the intrusions have found software tools left behind that could be used to destroy infrastructure components, the senior intelligence official said. He added, “If we go to war with them, they will try to turn them on.”

Officials said water, sewage and other infrastructure systems also were at risk.

“Over the past several years, we have seen cyberattacks against critical infrastructures abroad, and many of our own infrastructures are as vulnerable as their foreign counterparts,” Director of National Intelligence Dennis Blair recently told lawmakers. “A number of nations, including Russia and China, can disrupt elements of the U.S. information infrastructure.”

Officials cautioned that the motivation of the cyberspies wasn’t well understood, and they don’t see an immediate danger. China, for example, has little incentive to disrupt the U.S. economy because it relies on American consumers and holds U.S. government debt.

But protecting the electrical grid and other infrastructure is a key part of the Obama administration’s cybersecurity review, which is to be completed next week. Under the Bush administration, Congress approved $17 billion in secret funds to protect government networks, according to people familiar with the budget. The Obama administration is weighing whether to expand the program to address vulnerabilities in private computer networks, which would cost billions of dollars more. A senior Pentagon official said Tuesday the Pentagon has spent $100 million in the past six months repairing cyber damage.


U.S. Intelligence Detects Cyber Spies

WSJ’s Intelligence Reporter Siobhan Gorman says that Intelligence officials have found cyber spies lurking in the U.S. electrical infrastructure.

Overseas examples show the potential havoc. In 2000, a disgruntled employee rigged a computerized control system at a water-treatment plant in Australia, releasing more than 200,000 gallons of sewage into parks, rivers and the grounds of a Hyatt hotel.

Last year, a senior Central Intelligence Agency official, Tom Donahue, told a meeting of utility company representatives in New Orleans that a cyberattack had taken out power equipment in multiple regions outside the U.S. The outage was followed with extortion demands, he said.

The U.S. electrical grid comprises three separate electric networks, covering the East, the West and Texas. Each includes many thousands of miles of transmission lines, power plants and substations. The flow of power is controlled by local utilities or regional transmission organizations. The growing reliance of utilities on Internet-based communication has increased the vulnerability of control systems to spies and hackers, according to government reports.

The sophistication of the U.S. intrusions — which extend beyond electric to other key infrastructure systems — suggests that China and Russia are mainly responsible, according to intelligence officials and cybersecurity specialists. While terrorist groups could develop the ability to penetrate U.S. infrastructure, they don’t appear to have yet mounted attacks, these officials say.

It is nearly impossible to know whether or not an attack is government-sponsored because of the difficulty in tracking true identities in cyberspace. U.S. officials said investigators have followed electronic trails of stolen data to China and Russia.

Russian and Chinese officials have denied any wrongdoing. “These are pure speculations,” said Yevgeniy Khorishko, a spokesman at the Russian Embassy. “Russia has nothing to do with the cyberattacks on the U.S. infrastructure, or on any infrastructure in any other country in the world.”

A spokesman for the Chinese Embassy in Washington, Wang Baodong, said the Chinese government “resolutely oppose[s] any crime, including hacking, that destroys the Internet or computer network” and has laws barring the practice. China was ready to cooperate with other countries to counter such attacks, he said, and added that “some people overseas with Cold War mentality are indulged in fabricating the sheer lies of the so-called cyberspies in China.”

Utilities are reluctant to speak about the dangers. “Much of what we’ve done, we can’t talk about,” said Ray Dotter, a spokesman at PJM Interconnection LLC, which coordinates the movement of wholesale electricity in 13 states and the District of Columbia. He said the organization has beefed up its security, in conformance with federal standards.

In January 2008, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission approved new protection measures that required improvements in the security of computer servers and better plans for handling attacks.

Last week, Senate Democrats introduced a proposal that would require all critical infrastructure companies to meet new cybersecurity standards and grant the president emergency powers over control of the grid systems and other infrastructure.

Specialists at the U.S. Cyber Consequences Unit, a nonprofit research institute, said attack programs search for openings in a network, much as a thief tests locks on doors. Once inside, these programs and their human controllers can acquire the same access and powers as a systems administrator.

NERC Letter

The North American Electric Reliability Corporation on Tuesday warned its members that not all of them appear to be adhering to cybersecuirty requirements. Read the letter.

The White House review of cybersecurity programs is studying ways to shield the electrical grid from such attacks, said James Lewis, who directed a study for the Center for Strategic and International Studies and has met with White House reviewers.

The reliability of the grid is ultimately the responsibility of the North American Electric Reliability Corp., an independent standards-setting organization overseen by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.

The NERC set standards last year requiring companies to designate “critical cyber assets.” Companies, for example, must check the backgrounds of employees and install firewalls to separate administrative networks from those that control electricity flow. The group will begin auditing compliance in July.

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