China’s Cyber Espionage Program Pays Dividends

Yesterday, the Wall Street Journal published an article (see “A Chinese Stealth Challenge”) on the emergence of China’s new stealth fighter, the J-20, which looks suspiciously like the American F-35. Some experts have suggested that the Chinese aircraft appears it has “the potential to be a competitor with the F-22 and to be decisively superior to the F-35.”

J-20
J-20, Source: GlobalSecurity.org

It is probably no coincidence these two aircraft look so similar. China, has increasingly engaged in widespread cyber espionage on American firms and defense agencies by hacking into their computer networks. China has reputedly stolen classified information on the F-35 fighter by hacking into the computer networks of major Western defense contractors.

F-35, Source: Lockheed Martin photo/Tom Harvey

The most well known of these incidents is Operation Aurora, in which Chinese-based hackers broke into Google’s corporate network and stole the company’s intellectual property. On April 8, 2010, China Telecom “advertised erroneous network traffic routes that instructed U.S. and other foreign Internet traffic to travel through Chinese servers.” For about eighteen minutes, the Chinese routed all traffic for about fifteen percent of the Internet’s destinations through their servers. Some of these destinations included United States Government websites including those for the Army, the Navy, the Marine Corps, the Air Force, the Office of the Secretary of Defense, and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, among others (see “War in the Fifth Domain: Are the Mouse and Keyboard the New Weapons of Conflict?”).

According to cyber warfare expert, Richard Clarke, officials have privately confirmed that foreign hackers, who are presumably state-sponsored, have already installed logic bombs on American electric grid control systems. For example, in 2009, Chinese hackers penetrated the American electric grid and left behind malware that could bring it down (see “War from Cyberspace”).

It looks like America’s military industrial complex may also be inadvertently benefiting the Chinese aerospace industry.

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About Sean Patrick Hazlett

Conservative clean energy crusader, national security hawk, financial analyst, engineer, and former military officer.
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4 Responses to China’s Cyber Espionage Program Pays Dividends

  1. jerrytan says:

    China continues to push the envelope in its rise to power. I found this here: China flexes muscle with new Chinese stealth fighter The NY Times reports that sketchy data regarding a brand new Chinese stealth fighter has continued to stir the pot. Called the J-20, the fifth generation stealth fighter aircraft has the curious pondering the stealth fighter Chinese standing, and whether we should be concerned.

    • Thanks for the link. The timing of this announcement is likely tied to Secretary Gates visit to China, which began yesterday. I think this is more propaganda then something about which to be seriously alarmed. Even if the Chinese were in possession of the blueprints, pulling off the integration of the fighter’s various components will be difficult.

  2. Chris Van Trump says:

    To quote, oddly enough, myself, when talking about China’s military modernization program…

    “If I were China, and I were looking to protect my regional interests… I’d focus on a few specific things. I’d work on an anti-satellite missile, so as to deny any US attack the use of satellite reconnaissance or GPS guidance. I’d work on an anti-carrier missile, the better to prevent the US Navy from parking a half-dozen floating airfields in easy strike range of any point along my coast that they choose. And I’d work on a long-range stealth fighter, not so much to engage US fighters in combat, but to sneak past them and destroy the vital AWACS and tanker aircraft (along with foreign airfields) that the Air Force relies upon for force projection. ”

    All three of those programs are, of course, in full swing.

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