Reuters: US Weapons Systems Compromised by Chinese Intrusions


Chinese-Hackers

Designs for more than two dozen major U.S. weapons systems have been compromised by Chinese hackers, a U.S. report said on Monday, as a news report in Australia said Chinese hackers had stolen the blueprints for Australia’s new spy headquarters.

Citing a report prepared for the Defence Department by the Defence Science Board, the Washington Post reported that compromised U.S. designs included combat aircraft and ships, as well as missile defences vital for Europe, Asia and the Gulf.

Read the whole predictable, worrisome tale.

The Defense Department has long ago missed the boat on China and PLA development efforts to penetrate the communications/information systems of the US and her allies.   While there are some in the senior field grade and GOFO ranks who do “get it”, and comprehend the portent of the PRC’s course of action over the last dozen years, most clearly do not.  This is reflected in the questionable conceptual assertion that “cyber” is somehow a “domain” of warfare akin to that of land, sea, and air.  And that the US will somehow have “information dominance” over our foes.  This, despite the fact that the US Navy in particular cannot provide a meaningful definition of the term.  Indeed, the word “cyber” is a nebulous and ill-suited word under which DoD lumps together digital communications, information storage and integration, and processing algorithms critical to the function of a modern military, a modern economy, and a modern society.  

As recently as 2010, I was treated to a senior policy maker’s foolishly optimistic opinion that there was no real proof that the People’s Republic of China had embarked upon the unrestricted warfare that had been outlined more than ten years before.   He airily dismissed the document in question as little more than the musings of two PLA officers which did not represent any official PRC/PLA policy.   This, despite the massive and mounting evidence even then of Chinese efforts to penetrate US military and civilian networks, and despite the fact that many of the exploits which resulted in the Reuters article had been in place a number of years before his rather curious assertions.

Another unequivocal indication of the Defense Department’s inability to grasp the import of China’s building capabilities has been how “cyber” is incorporated into scenarios of the various war games held by the service components and combatant commands.  We have yet to break from the long-standing paradigm of action-reaction-counteraction which defines military operations against a hostile adversary, rather than a realistic scripting of what the effects of pre-conflict exploits would be to operating forces.   Our comprehension of the tactics and capabilities of our adversaries, particularly non-state or trans-national actors, and how they use information networks to their advantage and our disadvantage, remains highly suspect.  Time and again, contractors posit highly improbable, even fanciful, near-future capabilities to wow uniformed commanders, despite an almost complete lack of understanding as to how the adversary leverages the “big I” internet and the disruptive technologies available to him.    Attribution, even detection, painstaking processes that often require months or years to accomplish, often are represented as near-real-time capabilities.  Such assertions often go unchallenged by senior leaders who lack the technical savvy or systemic understanding to know better.

Here’s looking for some honest, rigorous consequence management exercises grounded in reality, which yield hard lessons for our operating forces whose two-plus decades of near-complete mastery of the electro-magnetic spectrum may be at an end.   I would love to see meaningful exploration of how we would fight with critical capabilities denied or degraded, and an operational-strategic assessment of alternatives for network function and weapons employment in the face of disruptive actions by an adversary of China’s capabilities.

After all, of the really bad things that can be done to a military force (or anybody else) through exploiting network intrusions, simply shutting off critical systems is well down on the list.

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6 Comments

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6 responses to “Reuters: US Weapons Systems Compromised by Chinese Intrusions

  1. Surfcaster

    I simply cannot fathom how the frak and why the frak we are here. The bulk of this information should be off the grid so it cannot be remotely stolen. Period. End of discussion. I pray that this is being Red teamed by our folks and the word is getting across to mil and the contractors. This is well beyond the WTF point for a fraking decade.

    Cdr Adama is pissed.

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  2. If only it was our TS Tactics guides. We don’t read and follow those anyway. We don’t seem to have stategy guides anymore.

    That being said, there may be some light amist the predictable darkness.

    1) Documents is one thing, building it and esp. maintaining it is another.

    2) Some of our senior personel (esp WO and senior noncoms) have over a decade of use in combat environments. This perishable skill transcends the hardware.

    3) if we had a smart research and development establishment we would already be working on counter counter-measures. The R& D race is ever thus.

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    • ultimaratioregis

      Documents are only a part of the haul, I am sure. Code for software, algorithms, control systems, etc., can be dissected and exploited. Defeat of systems is cheaper than destruction of individual platforms.

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  3. Meh. We’ve been though this before. The Chinese are alternately portrayed as less than nothing or 10 feet tall. I just with the media would make up its collective mind.

    Loss of some documents isn’t too bad. URR is very correct in that most in the DoD don’t seem to have a handle on the real-world possibilities. Just taking out some of our GPS system could get ugly, and I don’t want to think about what a non-nuclear EMP would do to a modern task force or division. The comments I’ve read from those who’ve been there tell me the younger generation would have little or no idea how to react using analog tools.

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    • ultimaratioregis

      I daresay we haven’t the slightest idea of what happened and what the PRC has access to. So no, we haven’t been through it before. Each is potentially entirely new.

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  4. I really have to wonder why such things are even on a network that might be accessed from outside.

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