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U.S. arms makers said to be bleeding secrets to cyber foes

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Top Pentagon contractors have been bleeding secrets for years as a result of penetrations of their computer networks, current and former national security officials say.

The Defense Department, which runs its own worldwide eavesdropping, spying and code-cracking systems, says more than 100 foreign intelligence organizations have been trying to break into U.S. networks.

Some of the perpetrators “already have the capacity to disrupt” U.S. information infrastructure, Deputy Defense Secretary William Lynn, who is leading remedial efforts, wrote last fall in the journal Foreign Affairs.

Joel Brenner, the National Counterintelligence executive from 2006 to 2009, said most if not all of the big defense contractors’ networks had been pierced.

“This has been happening since the late ’90s,” he told Reuters Tuesday. He identified the main threats as coming from Russia, China and Iran.

“They’re after our weapons systems and R&D,” or research and development, said Brenner, now with the law firm of Cooley LLP in Washington.

Lockheed Martin Corp, the Pentagon’s No. 1 supplier by sales, said on Saturday that it had thwarted “a significant and tenacious” attack on its information systems network that it detected May 21. Ten days later, the company says its still working to restore full employee access to the network while maintaining the highest level of security.

Lockheed, which is also the government’s top information technology provider, said it had become “a frequent target of adversaries from around the world.” A spokeswoman said it said it used the term “adversaries” only in a general sense.

Lockheed builds F-16, F-22 and F-35 fighter jets as well as Aegis naval combat system, THAAD missile defense and other big-ticket weapons systems sold to U.S. allies. It has not disclosed which of its business units was targeted.

Cyber intruders were reported in 2009 to have broken into computers holding data on Lockheed’s projected $380 billion-plus F-35 fighter program, the Pentagon’s costliest arms purchase.

Other big Pentagon contractors include Boeing Co, Northrop Grumman Corp, General Dynamics Corp, BAE Systems Plc and Raytheon Co. Each of these declined to comment on whether it believed its networks had been penetrated.

James Miller, the principal deputy undersecretary of defense for policy, said last May that the United States was losing terabytes of data in cyber attacks, enough to fill “multiple Libraries of Congress.” The world’s largest library, its archive totaled about 235 terabytes of data as of April, the Library of Congress says on its web site.

“The scale of compromise, including the loss of sensitive and unclassified data, is staggering,” Miller told a Washington forum.

U.S. Senator Sheldon Whitehouse, who led a Senate Intelligence Committee cyber task force last year, said in March that cybercrime has put the United States “on the losing end of what could be the largest illicit transfer of wealth in world history.”

Retired Air Force General Michael Hayden, a former director of central intelligence and ex-head of the Pentagon’s National Security Agency, said no network was safe if it had Internet access.

“You can isolate a network, a classified network,” he told Reuters in an interview last year. “Maybe you can get a certain level of confidence that you are not penetrated. But if you are out there connected to the world wide web you are vulnerable all the time.”

Anup Ghosh, a former senior scientist at the Pentagon’s Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, or DARPA, said there had been a string of intrusions into networks of U.S. defense contractors, security companies and U.S. government labs, including the U.S. Energy Department’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory, since the start of this year.

The advantage is with the intruders, said Ghosh, who worked on securing military networks for DARPA from 2002 to 2006 and now heads Invincea, a software security company.

“We’ve failed to innovate in the area of information security,” he said in an email Tuesday. “We’re fighting today’s battles with the equivalent of cold-war era defenses.”


Via NewsDaily

China no threat, Chinese general says on U.S. trip

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A top Chinese general rejected growing American concerns about China’s military buildup Wednesday, telling audiences at the National Defense University and the Pentagon that the People’s Liberation Army was no threat.

“The world has no need to worry, let alone fear … China’s growth,” said General Chen Bingde, chief of the PLA general staff, in a rare address to a packed room of U.S. military officers and faculty at the National Defense University.

But the reassurances by Chen during a high-profile visit to the United States were also accompanied by fresh warnings against any future U.S. arms sales to Taiwan, which underscored the fragile nature of the relationship.

As members of Congress press for the sale of F-16 fighter jets to Taiwan, which Beijing sees as a renegade province, Chen warned that new U.S. weapons sales to the self-ruled island would damage military ties.

“As to how bad the impact will be, it will depend on the nature of the weapons sold to Taiwan,” Chen told a Pentagon media briefing.

With an occasional smile, Chen quoted U.S. presidents including Abraham Lincoln to drive home his points. He turned to Franklin D. Roosevelt’s famous quote “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself,” trying to allay concerns about China.

Military ties are perhaps the weakest link in relations between the world’s two largest economies — which have also been tested in the past year by disputes over trade, currency, North Korea and human rights.

Chen is the highest ranking official to lead a military delegation to the United States since Beijing cut off ties to the United States in 2010 over a U.S. arms sale to Taiwan worth up to $6.4 billion.

Those ties appeared to gain new footing during Defense Secretary Robert Gates’ January trip to Beijing, even though it was overshadowed by a test flight of China’s J-20 stealth fighter that again stoked concerns about its military buildup.

China also plans to develop aircraft carriers, anti-ship ballistic missiles and other advanced systems which have alarmed the Asian powers and the United States, the dominant power in the Pacific. U.S. officials accuse Beijing of designing their weapons system to counter U.S. capabilities.

DECADES BEHIND THE WEST?

Chen played down Chinese military advances on his trip, telling the audience of U.S. military officers and faculty at the National Defense University the People’s Liberation Army lagged at least 20 years behind developed Western nations.

“To be honest, I feel very sad after visiting (the United States), because I think, I feel and I know, how poor our equipments are and how underdeveloped we remain,” Chen said.

Admiral Mike Mullen, chairman of the U.S. military’s Joint Chiefs of Staff and Chen’s host, stressed the importance of renewed dialogue to minimize the risk of misunderstanding.

“What he and I have both talked about is a future that is a peaceful future and a better one for our children and grandchildren. That does not include a conflict between China and the United States,” Mullen told reporters.

But some members of Congress criticized the U.S. military for too openly engaging with Chen and his delegation, particularly his access to U.S. military facilities. Chen will visit Nellis Air Force Base in Nevada, home to some high-tech U.S. defenses.

“There can be no doubt that every scrap of information this expert delegation collects will be used against us,” said Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, head of the House Foreign Affairs Committee in a statement.

“The Chinese military openly regards the United States as an enemy,” she said. “We should not undermine our own security by thinking we can make friends with self-proclaimed adversaries with hospitality and open arms.”

Still, the Chinese and U.S. economies, Chen noted, are inextricably linked. China has the world’s biggest foreign exchange reserve, with about two-thirds estimated to be held in dollars. Jokes about U.S. dependence on China to finance its debt are commonplace in the United States, and Chen appeared to seize the opportunity in Washington.

Talking about fiscal constraints on China’s military, Chen got a long round of laughter from his U.S. audience by joking: “If you can lend us some money, I think that would be easier.”

Provided by NewsDaily