The Washington Post cited a report prepared for the Department of Defense that stated Chinese computer hackers have stolen design information to more than two dozen major U.S. weapons systems. Among the weaponry compromised by hackers engaged in the espionage are the advanced Patriot missile system, Aegis ballistic missile defense systems, the F/A-18 fighter jet, the V-22 Osprey, the Black Hawk helicopter and the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter.
That information came out at the same time that Australian media reported that Chinese hackers had swiped blueprints for that nation’s new spy headquarters. It also comes on the heels of a Pentagon report to Congress that said hacking was a serious problem and that the Chinese were using information stolen through espionage to modernize its military.
In February, Mandiant, a computer security company, that said hackers working for the Chinese military stole data from 100 companies in the United States.
As one might expect, the Chinese government has rejected the accusations as groundless.
The concern of Americans about these goings-on, however, is anything but groundless.
Having the blueprint for a weapon means that it can be broken down and studied for strengths and, more importantly, weaknesses. Once a weakness in U.S. military armor is found, it can be exploited.
While an all-out war between the United States and China is unthinkable in that it could very likely decimate the world to the point where it was uninhabitable, it is conceivable that the two nations will someday find themselves backing different players in a smaller conflict. In such a case, stolen technology information could enable an enemy of the United States to knock out communications and corrupt data in military systems our allies utilize. At the very least, it most likely would negate any technological advantage for America.
And if China were to share the technology with an unstable regime like North Korea, the results could be devastating for the U.S. and its allies, particularly Japan and South Korea.
The fact is, nations stealing information from other nations has gone on since governments came into existence. But espionage is not the elegant stuff of James Bond thrillers where the good guy always comes out on top and saves the world from itself. These are real risks and real consequences, and America’s security has been compromised.
Cyber security is the single most critical defense issue for America. Congress and the White House must treat it with that level of urgency.