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.”
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.
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.