News / Asia

    US Report: China Hacked Into Key US Defense Contractors Site

    FILE - Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich. speaks with reporters on Capitol Hill.
    FILE - Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich. speaks with reporters on Capitol Hill.
    Victor Beattie

    The U.S. Senate Armed Services Committee said a yearlong investigation found hackers associated with the Chinese government successfully penetrated the computer systems of the U.S. Transportation Command (TRANSCOM) at least 20 times. 

    The allegations made public Wednesday come just four months after five Chinese military hackers were indicted for the theft of corporate secrets.

    The 52-page Senate report covers a one-year period from June 1, 2012, to May 30, 2013, and found about 50 intrusions into civilian contractors of TRANSCOM, which is responsible for moving U.S. troops and military equipment around the world. 

    At least 20 of those intrusions were deemed successful and considered an "advanced persistent threat (APT)," or sophisticated enough to be associated with foreign governments.

    'Aggressive actions'

    Committee chairman Senator Carl Levin of Michigan said these intrusions "are more evidence of China’s aggressive actions in cyberspace." 

    Levin said the findings "are a warning that we must do more to protect strategically significant systems from attack."

    The report found that an intrusion into a TRANSCOM contractor between 2008 and 2010 compromised e-mail, documents, user passwords and computer codes.

    A 2010 intrusion resulted in stolen documents, flight details, credentials and passwords for encrypted e-mail. 

    And a 2012 intrusion centered on a commercial ship contracted by TRANSCOM. 

    All were said to have been carried out by the Chinese military.

    Carl Baker of the Hawaii-based Pacific Forum think tank said China has an interest in the logistical prowess of the U.S. military.

    "What they’re interested in is to see how the United States does global logistics because that’s an interesting topic for someone who sees themselves as becoming the next great superpower,” Baker said. “They see that they have an interest in being able to coordinate global logistics like the United States military does. And so, I think that’s indicative of what I think we’re seeing from the Chinese that they see themselves as sort of the heir apparent to the global power that the United States is today."

    Military/civil fusion

    RAND Corporation China analyst Scott Harold said the Chinese have been investing heavily in what they call military/civil fusion, or civil/military integration - “trying to find ways to improve the PLA’s (People’s Liberation Army) capabilities by leveraging other abilities that are resident in the Chinese civilian economy."

    Harold said this case may have to do with China’s effort to improve its own capabilities and sees civilian contractors as having fewer defenses against cyber attacks.

    Denny Roy, a senior fellow at the Hawaii-based East-West Institute, said cyber espionage remains a large and deteriorating problem in bilateral relations. 

    Roy said government-sponsored cyber theft of industrial information on a massive scale is unique to China. He called it a low-level act of war.

    In May, the Justice Department unsealed indictments against five People’s Liberation Army personnel charging them with hacking into the networks of Westinghouse Electric, U.S. Steel Corporation and other companies. 

    U.S. law enforcement and intelligence agencies tracked the activities of the hackers to a military installation near the Shanghai airport.

    That prompted China to suspend its involvement in a cybersecurity working group with the United States. 

    Beijing called the indictments a "serious violation of the basic norms of international relations." China has accused the United States of hypocrisy following revelations of U.S. cyber activity by the website WikiLeaks and former intelligence contractor Edward Snowden.

    Aggressive hacking behavior

    William Martel, a Tufts University International Security Studies associate professor, said many governments are engaging in more aggressive behavior in hacking into government and private sector facilities.

    "This is an increasingly common phenomenon, and it’s one that I think really puts at risk a lot of the things that we do in the national security sense and in overall economic and technological security," Martel said.

    He said he is concerned the U.S. military remains vulnerable to such attacks.

    "What you worry about is an organization or a group that has the capability that surprises you, particularly at a time when you have, as we do, have military operations and activities going on on a global scale,” Martel said. “This is potentially dangerous, worse if you’re involved in a war and all of a sudden you start having difficulties with logistics or other capabilities. That would be very painful."

    Martel said what is needed is an international code of conduct on cyber for states, firms and individuals.

    As for the impact on U.S.-China relations, author, lawyer and China analyst Gordon Chang said it won’t amount to much.

    "I mean there have been so many intrusions by Chinese hackers over the past two decades that this one is just another drop in the bucket,” Chang said.

    “Unfortunately, at this point, the United States is still not willing to have a serious conversation with the Chinese, and by that I mean the United States is not willing to impose real costs on China for these unprecedented series of hacking attempts and successful intrusions into US networks,” he said.

    Cost of cyber espionage

    Chang said such cyber espionage may be costing the United States hundreds of billions of dollars and it may be time to retaliate, perhaps imposing tariffs on some Chinese exports.

    Roy, of the East-West Institute, said the only policy solutions are either the United States reacting in kind or it reduces the Internet connectivity of defense systems, thus sacrificing convenience for security.

    Meanwhile, former U.S. Army officer Benjamin Pierce Bishop, 59, who served as a civilian contractor at U.S. Pacific Command, was sentenced Wednesday to more than seven years in prison for passing national defense secrets to his Chinese girlfriend and illegally keeping numerous classified documents at his home.

    He was indicted last year and pleaded guilty to the charges in March. 

    You May Like

    Hope Remains for Rio Olympic Games

    Facing a host of problems, Rio prepares for holding the games but experts say some risks, like Zika, may not be as grave as initially thought

    Diplomats Hope to Revive Cradle of Civilization After Defeat of IS

    Diplomats from around globe gather at US State Department, discuss how to rebuild minority communities shattered by Islamic State group

    ‘Time Is Now’ to Save Africa’s Animals From Poachers, Activist Says

    During Zimbabwe visit, African Wildlife Foundation President Kaddu Sebunya says poaching hurts Africa as slave trade once did

    This forum has been closed.
    Comment Sorting
    Comments
         
    by: william li from: canada
    September 18, 2014 11:30 AM
    have obama said that every government spies? America was never shamed of what it did to Merkels phone or what it did on american ppl
    In Response

    by: william li from: canada
    September 19, 2014 10:23 AM
    @hoang, this hacking into US defense system is definitely not about stealing technology, its about to learn the operation of American military and then to defeat it. So this hacking is totally ok! right Hoang?
    In Response

    by: Hoang from: Canada
    September 18, 2014 5:03 PM
    Every country spies, but China is aggressively stealing technology and involved in cyberattack against other countries.
    So long the U.S. is soft on China, China will continue its aggressive intrusion into U.S. to fulfill its China dream world domination.

    by: meanbill from: USA
    September 18, 2014 8:08 AM
    WOULDN'T YOU KNOW?.... When the President and his administration is acting like a bunch of incompetents (on everything), and especially in their handling of US domestic and foreign affairs, the "Democrat" Senator Carl Levin rushes to his aid by raising the threat of Chinese cyber hacking, (but), just add it to the long list of the Obama Administration failures?.... and the list keeps growing and growing, doesn't it?

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Ivorian Chocolate Makers Promote Locally-made Chocolatei
    X
    July 29, 2016 4:02 PM
    Ivory Coast is the world's top producer of cocoa but hardly any of it is processed into chocolate there. Instead, the cocoa is sent abroad to chocolate makers in Europe and elsewhere. This is a general problem throughout Africa – massive exports of raw materials but few finished goods. As Emilie Iob reports from Abidjan, several Ivorian entrepreneurs are working to change that formula - 100% Ivorian chocolate bar at a time.
    Video

    Video Ivorian Chocolate Makers Promote Locally-made Chocolate

    Ivory Coast is the world's top producer of cocoa but hardly any of it is processed into chocolate there. Instead, the cocoa is sent abroad to chocolate makers in Europe and elsewhere. This is a general problem throughout Africa – massive exports of raw materials but few finished goods. As Emilie Iob reports from Abidjan, several Ivorian entrepreneurs are working to change that formula - 100% Ivorian chocolate bar at a time.
    Video

    Video Tesla Opens Battery-Producing Gigafactory

    Two years after starting to produce electric cars, U.S. car maker Tesla Motors has opened the first part of its huge battery manufacturing plant, which will eventually cover more than a square kilometer. Situated close to Reno, Nevada, the so-called Gigafactory will eventually produce more lithium-ion batteries than were made worldwide in 2013. VOA's George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Polio-affected Afghan Student Fulfilling Her Dreams in America

    Afghanistan is one of only two countries in the world where children still get infected by polio. The other is Pakistan. Mahbooba Akhtarzada who is from Afghanistan, was disabled by polio, but has managed to overcome the obstacles caused by this crippling disease. VOA's Zheela Nasari caught up with Akhtarzada and brings us this report narrated by Bronwyn Benito.
    Video

    Video Hillary Clinton Promises to Build a 'Better Tomorrow'

    Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton urged voters Thursday not to give in to the politics of fear. She vowed to unite the country and move it forward if elected in November. Clinton formally accepted the Democratic Party's nomination at its national convention in Philadelphia. VOA national correspondent Jim Malone has more.
    Video

    Video Trump Tones Down Praise for Russia

    Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump is toning down his compliments for Russia and Vladimir Putin as such rhetoric got him in trouble recently. After calling on Russia to find 30.000 missing emails from rival Hillary Clinton, Trump told reporters he doesn't know Putin and never called him a great leader, just one who's better than President Barack Obama. Putin has welcomed Trump's overtures, but, as Zlatica Hoke reports, ordinary Russians say they are not putting much faith in Trump.
    Video

    Video Uganda Unveils its First Solar-powered Bus

    A solar-powered bus described by its Ugandan makers as the first in Africa has made its public debut. Kiira Motors' electric bus, Kayoola, displayed recently at a stadium in Uganda's capital. From Kampala, Maurice Magorane filed this report narrated by Salem Solomon.
    Video

    Video Silicon Valley: More Than A Place, It's a Culture

    Silicon Valley is a technology powerhouse and a place that companies such as Google, Facebook and Apple call home. It is a region in northern California that stretches from San Francisco to San Jose. But, more than that, it's known for its startup culture. VOA's Elizabeth Lee went inside one company to find out what it's like to work in a startup.
    Video

    Video Immigrant Delegate Marvels at Democratic Process

    It’s been a bitter and divisive election season – but first time Indian-American delegate Dr. Shashi Gupta headed to the Democratic National Convention with a sense of hope. VOA’s Katherine Gypson followed this immigrant with the love of U.S. politics all the way to Philadelphia.
    Video

    Video Dutch Entrepreneurs Turn Rainwater Into Beer

    June has been recorded as one of the wettest months in more than a century in many parts of Europe. To a group of entrepreneurs in Amsterdam the rain came as a blessing, as they used the extra water to brew beer. Serginho Roosblad has more to the story.
    Video

    Video Commerce Thrives on US-Mexico Border

    At the Democratic Convention in Philadelphia this week, the party’s presumptive presidential nominee, Hillary Clinton, is expected to attack proposals made by her opponent, Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border. Last Friday, President Barack Obama hosted his Mexican counterpart, President Enrique Peña Nieto, to underscore the good relations between the two countries. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Tucson.
    Video

    Video Film Helps Save Ethiopian Children Thought to be Cursed

    'Omo Child' looks at effort of African man to stop killings of ‘mingi’ children
    Video

    Video London’s Financial Crown at Risk as Rivals Eye Brexit Opportunities

    By most measures, London rivals New York as the only true global financial center. But Britain’s vote to leave the European Union – so-called ‘Brexit’ – means the city could lose its right to sell services tariff-free across the bloc, risking its position as Europe’s financial headquarters. Already some banks have said they may shift operations to the mainland. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora