Chinese Hackers Stole U.S. Weapons System Designs

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  • David Inserra
    (Courtesy, The Heritage Foundation)
    Research assistant for national security and cyber security at The Heritage Foundation’s Allison Center for Foreign Policy Studies.
By David Inserra, CP Op-Ed Contributor
June 12, 2013|10:21 am

A new report by the Defense Science Board lists at least 29 specific U.S. weapons system designs that were stolen by Chinese hackers.

These include several missile defense systems, such as the Aegis Ballistic Missile Defense System, the Terminal High Altitude Aerial Defense, and the Patriot Advanced Capability-3. Aircraft, such as the F-35 and F/A 18 fighter planes, the C-17 cargo plane, and the UH-60 Black Hawk Helicopter, were compromised, as were the Navy's new Littoral Combat Ship and several information and control systems.

While the U.S. has started to increase its pressure on China, it is a dollar short and a day late.

Rather than allow state-sponsored hackers to continue to harm U.S. national and economic security, the U.S. needs to take stronger actions to deter future cyber aggression.

According to those familiar with these hacks, the vast majority are part of an ongoing and growing Chinese cyber-espionage campaign to steal U.S. technologies, advance Chinese weapons development, and then turn them against their creators.

Earlier this year, the security firm Mandiant also identified a specific bureau of the Chinese military as responsible for stealing huge amounts of data from U.S. companies over the past seven years. Taken together with countless other confirmed and suspected Chinese hacks, clearly the U.S. should do more to stop cyber aggression.

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First, the U.S. should continue to name and shame China. This will mean issuing more reports that identify China as a bad cyber actor and then having U.S leaders use this information to call out China in speeches and diplomatic discussions. While the U.S. is starting to actually put the blame on China in some of its reports, our leaders continue to naively treat China as a cyber ally.

In April, the highest-ranking American military officer, chairman of the Joint Chiefs General Martin Dempsey, stated that the U.S. sought "collaboration and transparency" with China, since "cyber threatens our economy and [the Chinese] economy." U.S. leaders should be pointing the finger at the Chinese instead of inviting them to steal U.S. secrets.

Second, the U.S. should actually take a tougher line on China by ceasing to cooperate with China on cybersecurity. The U.S. should not be engaging in cyber war games and cyber exchanges with the Chinese when they are merely using that information to learn how to do a better job hacking U.S. systems. Continuing to collaborate with China only proves that the U.S. knows about the problem but lacks the will to do anything about it, which further emboldens China.

The U.S. should also consider working with allies to take economic and legal actions against Chinese companies that peddle stolen property.

U.S. military and business secrets are being stolen as part of an extensive cyber campaign by the Chinese to advance their weapons capabilities and economy. The U.S. should stand up to China and make them feel pain when they steal U.S. secrets. Failing to do so would further endanger U.S. national security and economic growth.

David Inserra is a research assistant for national security and cyber security at The Heritage Foundation's Allison Center for Foreign Policy Studies.
 

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