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Chinese hackers steal secret submarine warfare data from US Navy contractor: report

Ships from the U.S. Navy, Indian Navy and Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force sail in formation in the Bay of Bengal during Malabar 2017. (COLE SCHROEDER/U.S. NAVY)
June 12, 2018

Hackers associated with the Chinese government have compromised the computers of a U.S. Navy contractor and acquired highly sensitive material pertaining to the U.S. military.

Some of the data included the plans for a top-secret supersonic anti-ship missile currently under development, the Washington Post reported.

U.S. military officials said that the security breach occurred in January and February of this year.

While officials did not name the contractor, it is known that the company works for the Naval Undersea Warfare Center, a military organization in Newport, R.I. The military organization is in charge of research and development for various military submarines and underwater weapons.

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The Chinese hackers acquired 614 gigabytes of sensitive material that included project plans, signal and sensor data, submarine radio room information and the Navy submarine development unit’s electronic warfare library.

Officials confirmed that the data was being stored on the contractor’s unclassified network. However, officials also said that, when aggregated, the data could be considered classified.

In response, the U.S. Navy is currently leading an investigation into the hacking with the help of the FBI. And on Friday, the Pentagon Inspector General’s office said that Defense Secretary Jim Mattis was also reviewing contractor cybersecurity issues.

Bill Speaks, a Navy spokesman, said: “We treat the broader issue of cyber intrusion against our contractors very seriously. If such an intrusion were to occur, the appropriate parties would be looking at the specific incident, taking measures to protect current information, and mitigating the impacts that might result from any information that might have been compromised.”

The data breach comes at a particularly critical time for U.S.-China relations.

President Donald Trump has been working with China in regards to denuclearization talks with North Korea while simultaneously trying to handle the two countries’ economic relationship.

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China has also recently put forth more effort than ever when it comes to its own Navy program, recently launching its first home-built aircraft carrier.

Chinese government hackers have for years attempted to gain sensitive military information, and their most recent hack was one of several successful attempts.

China is known to have acquired designs for the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, the Patriot PAC-3 missile system and the Navy’s new Littoral Combat Ship, according to previous reports prepared for the Pentagon.