Computer Spies Hack into Pentagon’s Costliest Weapons Program

Thursday, April 23, 2009
Proposed Helmut for Pilots of Joint Strike Fighter

Not once, not twice, but several times have plans for the Defense Department’s most sophisticated, and expensive, military plane been hacked by cyber spies from China. In the most recent occurrence, intruders were able to gain access to the designs and electronics systems of the $300 billion F-35 Joint Strike Fighter—information that could help a U.S. enemy defend itself against the aircraft.

As the costliest and most technically challenging weapons program ever attempted by the Pentagon, the F-35 Lightning II uses 7.5 million lines of computer code, which is more than triple the amount used in other top Air Force fighters. Lockheed Martin Corp. is the main contractor for the program, with Northrop Grumman Corp. and BAE Systems playing major roles as well.
The hackers managed to gain entry to data about the F-35 through vulnerabilities in the Pentagon computer system used by defense contractors. Last year, the Pentagon’s inspector general issued a report citing another incident involving unauthorized access of the plane’s secrets, and complained about BAE’s refusal to play ball with Defense Department security demands.
Another report from the Pentagon mentioned that the Chinese military has made “steady progress” in developing online-warfare techniques. It is no wonder then that defense officials are reportedly considering creating a new “cyber command” in charge of all Pentagon computer systems.
-Noel Brinkerhoff
Computer Spies Breach Fighter-Jet Project (by Siobhan Gorman, August Cole and Yochi Dreazen, Wall Street Journal)


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