A new report says Chinese hackers stole data from an American military contractor, including plans for a new weapon to be used by American submarines.
According to a report from The Washington Post, the security breaches took place in January and February and targeted a contractor that works for the Naval Undersea Warfare Center in Newport, Rhode Island.
The report said 614 gigabytes of material were taken. The stolen files included information on a project called Sea Dragon and information about Navy communications systems.
The Post said its sources, which it did not name, provided more details, but the outlet agreed not to disclose the information “at the request of the Navy, which argued that their release could harm national security.”
The data stolen were stored on an unclassified network, The Post reported.
The Navy, which said it was investigating the incident with the help of the FBI, issued a statement in response to the report.
Lt. Marycate Walsh, a Navy spokeswoman, said there were “measures in place that require companies to notify the government when a cyberincident has occurred that has actual or potential adverse effects on their networks that contain controlled unclassified information.”
She said it would be “inappropriate to discuss further details at this time,” The New York Times reported.
Several experts said that if the report is true, it fits with a pattern of Chinese efforts to prevent the U.S. from getting the upper hand militarily by stealing secrets.
“What Beijing has been very good at is targeting US defense contractors, getting into their computer systems through various types of essentially cyber warfare and stealing the designs of some of America’s best military assets,” said Harry Kazianis, director of defense studies at the Centre for the National Interest think tank, according to Britain’s The Express.
“It’s very disturbing,” said former Sen. James Talent, a Missouri Republican who belongs to the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission. “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.”
Little is known about the Sea Dragon project except from the Defense Department comment that it will bring “disruptive offensive capability” by “integrating an existing weapon system with an existing Navy platform.”
As China has built up its navy, submarine forces could become crucial in any military showdown, experts said.
“U.S. naval forces are going to have a really hard time operating in that area, except for submarines, because the Chinese don’t have a lot of anti-submarine warfare capability,” Bryan Clark, a naval analyst at the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments, said, according to The Post. “The idea is that we are going to rely heavily on submarines in the early effort of any conflict with the Chinese.”
That would make the reported theft vital.
“Anything that degrades our comparative advantage in undersea warfare is of extreme significance if we ever had to execute our war plans for dealing with China,” said James Stavridis, dean of the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University. The retired admiral has served as supreme allied commander at NATO.
The U.S. and China are at odds over China’s military buildup in the South China Sea, an area of overlapping claims form several Asian nations.
Truth and Accuracy
We are committed to truth and accuracy in all of our journalism. Read our editorial standards.