Chinese government hackers have stolen a massive trove of sensitive information from a US Navy contractor, including secret plans to develop a new type of submarine-launched anti-ship missile, the Washington Post reported Friday.
Investigators told the newspaper that breaches were executed in January and February by a division of the Chinese Ministry of State Security, operating out of Guangdong Province.
The contractor, which was not named in the report, works for the US Naval Undersea Warfare Center, based in Newport, Rhode Island. It conducts research and development for submarines and underwater weapons systems.
According to the report, hackers swiped 614 gigabytes of data that included information relating to sensors, submarine cryptographic systems and a little-known project called Sea Dragon.
The US Department of Defense has not said much about Sea Dragon, launched in 2012, except that it is aimed at adapting existing military technologies to new uses.
At the US Navy’s request, the Washington Post withheld information about the compromised new missile system, but said it was for a supersonic anti-ship missile that could be launched from submarines.
US Navy spokesman Commander Bill Speaks declined to confirm the report, citing security reasons.
“Evolving cyberthreats are serious matters and we are continuously bolstering our cybersecurity culture by focusing on awareness of the cyberthreat, and the adequacy of our cyberdefenses and information technology capabilities,” he told reporters.
Chinese hackers have for years targeted the US military to steal information and the Pentagon said they have previously swiped crucial data on the Lockheed Martin F-35 stealth fighter, the Patriot PAC-3 missile system and other highly sensitive projects.
News of the hack comes amid rising tensions between Beijing and Washington on a range of issues including trade and military matters.
The Pentagon last month pulled the US Navy’s invitation for China to join Rim of the Pacific Exercise because of Beijing’s “continued militarization” of the South China Sea, where Taiwan also has claims.
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