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

    US-Russia Tensions Complicate Syria War

    With a shared enemy and opposing allies, Russia and the US are working to avoid confrontation

    Video Re-opening Old Wounds in Beirut's Bullet-riddled Yellow House

    Built in neo-Ottoman style in 1920s, it is set to be re-opened in Sept. as ‘memory museum’ - bullet-riddled walls and bunkered positions overlooking city’s notorious ‘Green Line’ maintained for posterity

    Cambodian-Americans Lobby for Human Rights Resolution

    Resolution condemns all forms of political violence in Cambodia, urges Cambodian government to end human rights violations, calls for respect of press freedom

    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.
    Brexit Vote Plunges Global Markets Into Uncharted Territoryi
    X
    June 24, 2016 9:38 PM
    British voters plunged global markets into unknown territory after they voted Thursday to leave the European Union. The results of the Brexit vote, the term coined to describe the referendum, caught many off guard. Analysts say the resulting volatility could last for weeks, perhaps longer. Mil Arcega reports.
    Video

    Video Brexit Vote Plunges Global Markets Into Uncharted Territory

    British voters plunged global markets into unknown territory after they voted Thursday to leave the European Union. The results of the Brexit vote, the term coined to describe the referendum, caught many off guard. Analysts say the resulting volatility could last for weeks, perhaps longer. Mil Arcega reports.
    Video

    Video Orlando Shooting Changes Debate on Gun Control

    It’s been nearly two weeks since the largest mass shooting ever in the United States. Despite public calls for tighter gun control laws, Congress is at an impasse. Democratic lawmakers resorted to a 1960s civil rights tactic to portray their frustration. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti explains how the Orlando, Florida shooting is changing the debate.
    Video

    Video Tunisian Fishing Town Searches for Jobs, Local Development Solutions

    As the European Union tries to come to grips with its migrant crisis, some newcomers are leaving voluntarily. But those returning to their home countries face an uncertain future.  Five years after Tunisia's revolution, the tiny North African country is struggling with unrest, soaring unemployment and plummeting growth. From the southern Tunisian fishing town of Zarzis, Lisa Bryant takes a look for VOA at a search for local solutions.
    Video

    Video 'American Troops' in Russia Despite Tensions

    Historic battle re-enactment is a niche hobby with a fair number of adherents in Russia where past military victories are played-up by the Kremlin as a show of national strength. But, one group of World War II re-enactors in Moscow has the rare distinction of choosing to play western ally troops. VOA's Daniel Schearf explains.
    Video

    Video Experts: Very Few Killed in US Gun Violence Are Victims of Mass Shootings

    The deadly shooting at a Florida nightclub has reignited the debate in the U.S. over gun control. Although Congress doesn't provide government health agencies funds to study gun violence, public health experts say private research has helped them learn some things about the issue. VOA's Carol Pearson reports.
    Video

    Video Trump Unleashes Broadside Against Clinton to Try to Ease GOP Doubts

    Recent public opinion polls show Republican Donald Trump slipping behind Democrat Hillary Clinton in the presidential election matchup for November. Trump trails her both in fundraising and campaign organization, but he's intensifying his attacks on the former secretary of state. VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone reports.
    Video

    Video Muslim American Mayor Calls for Tolerance

    Syrian-born Mohamed Khairullah describes himself as "an American mayor who happens to be Muslim." As the three-term mayor of Prospect Park, New Jersey, he believes his town of 6,000 is an example of how ethnicity and religious beliefs should not determine a community's leadership. Ramon Taylor has this report from Prospect Park.
    Video

    Video Internal Rifts Over Syria Policy Could Be Headache for Next US President

    With the Obama administration showing little outward enthusiasm for adopting a more robust Syria policy, there is a strong likelihood that the internal discontent expressed by State Department employees will roll over to the next administration. VOA State Department correspondent Pam Dockins reports.
    Video

    Video Senegal to Park Colorful ‘Cars Rapide’ Permanently

    Brightly painted cars rapide are a hallmark of Dakar, offering residents a cheap way to get around the capital city since 1976. But the privately owned minibuses are scheduled to be parked for good in late 2018, as Ricci Shryock reports for VOA.
    Video

    Video Florida Gets $1 Million in Emergency Government Funding for Orlando

    The U.S. government has granted $1 million in emergency funding to the state of Florida to cover the costs linked to the June 12 massacre in Orlando. U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch announced the grant Tuesday in Orlando, where she met with survivors of the shooting attack that killed 49 people. Zlatica Hoke reports.
    Video

    Video How to Print Impossible Shapes with Metal

    3-D printing with metals is rapidly becoming more advanced. As printers become more affordable, the industry is partnering with universities to refine processes for manufacturing previously impossible things. A new 3-D printing lab aims to bring the new technology closer to everyday use. VOA's George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Big Somali Community in Minnesota Observes Muslim Religious Feast

    Ramadan is widely observed in the north central US state of Minnesota, which a large Muslim community calls home. VOA Somali service reporter Mohmud Masadde files this report from Minneapolis, the state's biggest city.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora