This treasure trove of military technology could potentially give China a crucial advantage in an hypothetical conflict or, at the very least, boost the regime’s old-fashioned military.
The compromised systems include advanced combat aircrafts like the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, or the F/A-18 fighter jet; missile defense systems, and information related to drones, satellite communications and electronic warfare.
The revelation comes from the confidential portion of a report prepared by the Defense Science Board for the Department of Defense and obtained by the Washington Post.
The public PDF version of the report, “Resilient Military Systems and the Advanced Cyber Threat,” didn’t refer to the stolen designs, but simply warned of the increasing threat posed by lax cybersecurity. The confidential portion obtained by the Post, however, listed all the compromised weapons systems and technologies.
This part of the report wasn’t too specific in explaining the method and timing of the breach, making it unclear whether the hackers accessed Pentagon servers or stole designs from the defense contractors.
Furthermore, the report didn’t directly implicate Chinese hackers. The accusation came from “senior military and industry officials with knowledge of the breaches,” who spoke with the Post and explained that this intrusion was part of a Chinese espionage campaign against the U.S.
A Pentagon spokesman told the Post that the Department of Defense has “growing concerns about the global threat to economic and national security from persistent cyber-intrusions aimed at the theft of intellectual property, trade secrets and commercial data, which threatens the competitive edge of U.S. businesses like those in the Defense Industrial Base.”
Experts consulted by the Post were surprised by the extensive list of compromised technologies.
“That’s staggering,” said Mark Stokes, the executive director of the Project 2049 Institute, a think tank focused on Asia security issues. “These are all very critical weapons systems, critical to our national security. When I hear this in totality, it’s breathtaking.”
Knowing the inner workings of critical missile defense systems, the experts explained, could allow the Chinese military to design weapons able to circumvent them.