Cyber Spies Breach Pentagon's Fighter Jet Project
Cyber spies have broken into the Pentagon's $300 billion Joint Strike Fighter project - the defense department's costliest weapons program ever, according to the lead item in today's Wall Street Journal.
From the story:
Similar incidents have also breached the Air Force's air-traffic-control system in recent months, these people say. In the case of the fighter-jet program, the intruders were able to copy and siphon off several terabytes of data related to design and electronics systems, officials say, potentially making it easier to defend against the craft.
Attacks like these -- or U.S. awareness of them -- appear to have escalated in the past six months, said one former official briefed on the matter. "There's never been anything like it," this person said, adding that other military and civilian agencies as well as private companies are affected. "It's everything that keeps this country going.
The disclosure is the latest tale of cyber espionage told by unnamed current and former government officials. Last week, a Journal story quoting an anonymous official saying Chinese and Russian hackers had infiltrated the U.S. electrical grid electrified the news media and blogosphere, even though the piece was otherwise bereft of verifiable details.
In commenting on last week's revelations, Wired.com blogger Kevin Poulsen suggests that the conclusion we are to reach from these events is obvious:
"Chinese Superhackers Are Our Superiors. No, wait. That's not it. I know ... Only the intelligence agencies are equipped to protect us from foreign cyber attacks."
Indeed, the timing of these stories is hard to ignore. The National Security Agency is engaged in a bid to assume control over government-wide cybersecurity efforts.
As it stands, no single entity is in charge of protecting the dot-mil space, and responsibility for the security of civilian government networks has been left to the Department of Homeland Security. Last month, a top cyber security official at DHS resigned his post, citing what he called the NSA's tightening grip on government cyber security matters.
A major DHS project to monitor federal networks for signs of cyber intrusions - dubbed "Einstein" - has by most accounts failed, despite many years and tens of millions of taxpayer dollars spent on the program. Critics of DHS said the department failed on Einstein because it lacks the supercomputing power that it takes to simultaneously hoover up huge amounts of Internet data flows and analyze them in real time. The only agency with the experience and ability to do this is the NSA, several current and former government officials told a Washington Post reporter recently.
"Last year, then-Director of National Intelligence Mike McConnell wrote Gates a letter recommending the establishment of a national cyber command, led by the NSA director," my colleague Ellen Nakashima wrote last week. "Among his missions would be that of supporting DHS in protecting the civilian networks through the cyber plan."
Meanwhile, lawmakers on Capitol Hill say they will continue investigating reports that the NSA had swept up the communications of Americans while targeting foreign groups and individuals, Nakashima writes.
Last Friday, the Obama administration wrapped up its 60-day review of the previous administration's Comprehensive National Cybersecurity Initiative. A White House spokesman said in a statement that the administration will begin discussing the results "after the president has had an opportunity to carefully review the group's effort." A hint of what's in store may come this week: Melissa Hathaway, the National Security Council official who has been leading that group, is expected to deliver the keynote address Wednesday at the RSA Security conference in San Francisco.
April 21, 2009; 12:07 PM ET
Categories: From the Bunker , U.S. Government | Tags: cybr spies, dhs, joint strike fighter, nsa, wsj
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