mead cohen berger shevtsova garfinkle michta grygiel blankenhorn
Chinese Hacking Is Much Worse Than We Knew


A confidential report prepared by the Defense Science Board for the Pentagon found that the Chinese have been hacking American defense companies and government departments to a much greater extent than previously reported. The Washington Post got an advance look at the report, and it’s not pretty.

Mark Stokes, the executive director of a think tank focused on security issues in Asia, was astonished by the list of weapons systems compromised by Chinese hack attacks: “These are all very critical weapons systems, critical to our national security. When I hear this in totality, it’s breathtaking.”

“Breathtaking” is no understatement; the Chinese reportedly gained access to essential weapons and defense systems:

Some of the weapons form the backbone of the Pentagon’s regional missile defense for Asia, Europe and the Persian Gulf. The designs included those for the advanced Patriot missile system, known as PAC-3; an Army system for shooting down ballistic missiles, known as the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense, or THAAD; and the Navy’s Aegis ballistic-missile defense system.

Also identified in the report are vital combat aircraft and ships, including the F/A-18 fighter jet, the V-22 Osprey, the Black Hawk helicopter and the Navy’s new Littoral Combat Ship, which is designed to patrol waters close to shore.

Assuming these reports are true (and that the attacks are part of a government-led espionage campaign, as the Pentagon alleges), from the Chinese point of view hacking American defense companies makes a lot of sense. Why spend billions of dollars on developing your own weapons systems when you can steal from the most advanced army in the world? Why guess at the capabilities of your greatest rival when you can sneak through electronic passageways to ascertain many of its strengths and weaknesses? It’s impossible to put a value on that kind of information.

President Obama and Chinese President Xi Jinping will have a lot of face time at a bilateral summit meeting in California in June. This report should be at the top of Obama’s agenda. Theft of American military secrets by Chinese hackers is one of the most important stories of the 21st century, and it’s a serious headache for the Obama administration as it seeks to pursue closer military ties with China even as the cyber attacks escalate.

[Dragon image and cyber background courtesy of Shutterstock]

Features Icon
show comments
  • Anthony

    I just read report in Washington Post and it ties most to defense contractors and sub contractors; better methods to protect our weapon designs from internet cyperhacking ought to be nonpartisan priority.

  • mountaindaisy

    I will never forget when President Billary Clintons made China “most favored nation” in the 1990’s. That and the Blue Dress is where I trace back the beginning of our end.

  • AnnSaltzafrazz

    Why are these computers attached to the internet? Shouldn’t they be isolated and insulated?

  • Atanu Maulik

    All these reports about the effects of Chinese hacking are grossly exaggerated. Stealing the details of weapons systems are not quite like stealing a purse. These things are way too complicated. A modern system involves tens of millions of lines of code, takes thousands of the world’s best engineers decades to develop. Even you give it to the Chinese for free on a pendrive, by the time the Chinese were able to digest and copy it, US will move on to the next generation of weapons system.

    • Nick Bidler

      It’s still a enormous leap up from their current military hardware, and “last year’s cutting edge” is still enormously valuable.

© The American Interest LLC 2005-2016 About Us Masthead Submissions Advertise Customer Service