Major U.S. Weapons Compromised By Chinese Hackers, Report Warns

Expert: China looking for "achilles heel" in U.S. systems.

ByABC News
May 28, 2013, 1:21 PM

May 28, 2013 — -- A previously undisclosed portion of a U.S. Defense report lists the specific weapons system designs that it says have been at least partially compromised by Chinese hackers -- from the most advanced fighter plane in history to America's missile defense systems.

The list of weapons, first reported Monday by The Washington Post and confirmed to ABC News by a U.S. official, was included in a version of a report from the Department of Defense's Defense Science Board (DSB) made for top Pentagon and defense industry officials. The board released a public version of the report in January.

Among the more than two dozen major weapon systems listed in the report are the stealth F-35 Joint Strike Fighter aircraft program, the most expensive weapons program in history whose breach was previously reported; the Global Hawk long-range surveillance drone; aspects of the Patriot missile system; the Navy's Littoral Combat Ship and Black Hawk helicopters. Information on various U.S. government technologies was also siphoned by cyber spies including nanotechnology, directed energy, space surveillance telescopes, tactical data links and drone video systems.

The DSB report did not accuse the Chinese of stealing the designs, but the U.S. official told ABC News Chinese hackers had obtained the information by accessing the networks of private defense companies that do business with the Pentagon. It was unclear the extent of the Chinese penetration, the official said.

"...[T]he cyber threat is serious and... the United States cannot be confident that our critical Information Technology (IT) systems will work under attack from a sophisticated and well-resourced opponent utilizing cyber capabilities in combination with all their military and intelligence capabilities," the public version of the DSB report said. "This conclusion was developed upon several factors, including the success adversaries have had penetrating our networks..."

Pentagon spokesperson George Little addressed the report today, saying the Defense Department maintains "full confidence in our weapons platforms."

"Suggestions that cyber intrusions have somehow led to the erosion of our capabilities or technological edge are incorrect," he said.

The report comes as White House National Security Adviser Tom Donilon met with high-level Chinese military officials at the Chinese Defense Ministry, where he reportedly called for a "new model for relations" by "ensuring we have a healthy, stable and reliable military-to-military relationship."

In March Donilon said in a speech that Chinese hacking was at the "forefront of our agenda" and asked China to "put a stop to these activities," but in the recent meeting, the topic of cyber attacks did not come up, Reuters reported. The White House said President Obama plans to discuss the matter with Chinese leader Xi Jinping at a meeting in June.

The revelation about the weapons systems hack came the same day an Australian news outlet reported Chinese cyber spies managed to steal the plans for that nation's new $600 million-plus intelligence headquarters. The blueprints included details on communications cabling, server locations and security systems, the report said.

RELATED: Plans for Australia Spy HQ Hacked by China, Report Says

The Chinese government has repeatedly called hacking accusations "groundless" and has claimed to be the victim of a widespread American cyber espionage campaign.