Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Cyber Spies Steal Fighter Jet Data

Via CBSNews -

A series of online spy attacks breached a $300 billion Pentagon fighter jet program and the Air Force's air traffic control system in recent months, according to a Wall Street Journal report Tuesday.

The computer spies copied several terabytes of data from the Joint Strike Fighter project, the most expensive in Defense Department history, pertaining to the electronics and design systems of the aircraft, several current and former officials told the Journal.

Officials said the separate incursion into the air traffic control system could allow intruders to interfere with military aircraft.

The source of the espionage appears to be China, according to a former official, though the origin of any attacks could be masked. Chinese officials deny any involvement and say U.S. suspicion is the result of a "Cold War mentality."

Similar attacks have become more frequent in recent months, underscoring the increasingly heated battles taking place in cyberspace. Earlier this month, the Wall Street Journal reported that Russian and Chinese spies gained access to the U.S. electrical grid, inserting software that could disrupt the system.

In the Joint Strike Fighter attack, officials said that while spies made off with some data, the most sensitive information is stored on separate, non-networked computers. But the vulnerability lies in the Pentagon's reliance on private defense contractors, some foreign, who have less-than-secure networks. The breaches apparently took place in Turkey and another U.S. ally nation, according to the report.

While there is no U.S. agency currently dedicated solely to cyber-security, the Obama administration is expected to propose a senior White House post to coordinate military efforts to guard against further breaches. The White House may also look to extend a $17 billion security initiative originally planned by the Bush administration.

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