The Pentagon’s Unprepared for “Full-Scale Cyber-Conflict”

In today’s comforting news, it seems that Chinese hackers have accessed “the designs of over two dozen [weapons] systems.” One really needs to start a betting pool for the next time US government or US companies get hacked by Chinese computer nerds. These stories seem to come up every other week already. This attack appears to be particularly sinister. USA Today reports:

The compromised weapons designs include, among others, advanced Patriot missile system, the Navy’s Aegis ballistic missile defense systems, the F/A-18 fighter jet, the V-22 Osprey, the Black Hawk helicopter and the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter.




[The Defense Science Board’s confidential report] does not accuse the Chinese of stealing the designs, but says that the designs of more than two dozen systems were compromised, the [Washington] Post reported.

Sure, arms blueprints cannot do anything on their own without engineers who have the materials needed to craft the weaponry. But needless to say it’s easy to wonder who these hackers may or may not be working for — especially in light of the Chinese government’s claims that US hackers target Beijing on a regular basis. With both sides claiming that they conduct no cyber-espionage on the other, these stories belie the question of whether the US and China are already engaging in an underhanded cyberbattle. On that note:

White House press spokesman would not comment Tuesday on specifics of the report, but noted that President Obama and his advisers have spoken often about cybersecurity as a key priority — and key concern — of the administration.

The administration emphasizes increased cybersecurity for good reason:

An alleged breach of U.S. systems was noted in a public report issued by the advisory panel in January, but the section of the report listing the compromised weapons system remained classified until Tuesday. The public version had warned that the Pentagon is unprepared to counter a full-scale cyber-conflict.

In this day and age, it is mind boggling that the Defense Department is unprepared to handle a high-level cyber attack. Given the limitless ingenuity of computer hackers, one would think that cybersecurity would be a greater priority for national defense (instead of spending a ton of money on the drug war, foreign aid, private subsidies… I could go on and on).

Those claiming to be a part of Anonymous have hacked both the Defense Department and the Department of Homeland Security. Scotland Yard investigated a 19-year-old — a 19-year-old! — for hacking CIA websites as a member of LulzSec. In 2011, 24,000 files were stolen from the Pentagon.

The Homeland Security Department has attempted to woo hackers to work with them on cybersecurity, but most recruited hackers choose to work for the National Security Agency where they perfect offensive strategies rather than develop defense systems.

There is more than enough domestic talent available to develop more effective cybersecurity systems. Clearly sensitive defense information is easily accessible to hackers worldwide. The catch is how to bring hackers to the Defense and Homeland Security departments instead — and how to make cybersecurity attractive.