President Barack Obama will personally press his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping about cyber hacking when they meet next week as new details emerged on Tuesday about the extent of military information China has managed to obtain.
The designs of more than 30 weapons systems have been “compromised” by Chinese hackers, according to a confidential report prepared by an advisory body to the Pentagon.
The weapons systems include a number of the new technologies that the Pentagon is deploying to respond to China’s growing military capabilities, including the new littoral combat ship and its advanced missile defence batteries.
The list of “compromised” weapons was included in a classified section of a report on cyber hacking prepared by the Defense Science Board, which advises Pentagon leaders. The details were first reported in The Washington Post and confirmed by a former military official.
The report did not say how or when the intrusions took place nor what sort of information was taken by the hackers. The Chinese government denied the allegation.
Although defence officials have long warned about a Chinese campaign to hack US military information, which is believed to have peaked in around 2007, the extent of the list surprised some observers.
“In some cases, they got away with everything, in others they just scratched the surface,” said James Lewis, an expert on cybersecurity at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington. “While this has been going on since the 1990s, what has changed recently is awareness of the scope of Chinese activities.”
Many cyber experts in the US say Chinese attention in recent years has turned from military information to the intellectual property of US corporations.
George Little, Pentagon press secretary, said the defence department had improved its security against cyber espionage. “We maintain full confidence in our weapons platforms,” he said. “Suggestions that cyber intrusions have somehow led to the erosion of our capabilities or technological edge are incorrect.”
Mr Obama will meet Mr Xi in California next week for the first time since the Chinese leader took office earlier this year. Amid a growing debate in Washington about finding ways to punish Chinese hackers, the White House said on Tuesday that Mr Obama would raise the issue of cybersecurity.
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