China Hacks U.S. Military Secrets: Top 10 Facts You Need to Know

Chinese soldiers

In one of the worst cyber attacks in recent memory, Chinese cyber spies have hacked the plans for a number of U.S. military weapon and vehicle designs including the most expensive design in history. The Pentagon sent a release on Monday to The Washington Post claiming that Chinese government-backed spies were able to penetrate a network containing the classified information.China traditionally denies any allegations of cyber attacks. Here’s what you need to know.

1. The Most Expensive Weapons System Ever Was Hacked

Among the designs stolen was the F-35 Join Strike Fighter, often referred to as the most expense weapon design ever produced. According to The Washington Post the project is on track to cost $1.4 trillion. This is not the first time the project underwent a cyber attack. It also had plans stolen in 2007.

2. They Got Designs for New Military Vehicles


Although The Washington Post did not list all of the weapons designs that were hacked in this attack, the military source did identify a number of brand new combat vehicles including the F/A-18 fighter jet, the V-22 Osprey, the popular Black Hawk helicopter, and a brand new Naval vessel designed to “patrol waters close to shore.”

3. The Pentagon’s Missile Defense System is Compromised

Patriot Missles

Hackers also gained access to the plans and designs for the systems and weapons that form the “backbone” of the missile defense system designed by the Pentagon to protect parts of Asia, Europe, and the Persian Gulf from missile attacks. According to the Post’s source:

The designs included those for the advanced Patriot missile system, known as PAC-3; an Army system for shooting down ballistic missiles, known as the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense, or THAAD; and the Navy’s Aegis ballistic-missile defense system.

4. We Do Not Know Which Networks Were Compromised — Contractor or Government

According to The Washington Post the United States government will not say whose system the Chinese spies hacked. According to The Washington Post the penetration could have occurred in the networks on the U.S. government, defense contractors or even subcontractors. The article quotes an unnamed senior military official who complained about the level of cyber security among contractors saying,

In many cases, they don’t know they’ve been hacked until the FBI comes knocking on their door.

However, the Australian Broadcasting Company has reported that many Australian based companies were targeted including Bluescope Steel and the military and civilian communications manufacturer Codan.

5. China is Rapidly Trying to Modernize Its Military

Over the last ten years, the world has witnessed an incredible transformation in the China’s People’s Liberation Army. It has been suspected that China has been violating international intellectual property right laws in order to steal and replicate some of the world’s best military technology. The Washington Post’s anonymous informant was quoted as saying about yesterday’s hack:

This is billions of dollars of combat advantage for China. They’ve just saved themselves 25 years of research and development. It’s nuts.

6. There is a New Law That Hopes to Prevent This

The recent 2013 Defense Authorization Act is proof of an attempt on the side of the U.S. government to try to prevent cyber attacks such as yesterdays. The Act, which is now stalled, has a provision that requires all contractors for the Defense Department that hold classified information to report all breaches of security and allow the government the right to investigate the breach.

You can read all 681 pages of the Defense Authorization Act below:

7. The Australian Government Also Was Hacked

Analysis: Australia spy plans hacked by ChineseSubscribe to our channel Subscribe to our channel David Vaile, of the University of New South Wales, talks to Al Jazeera's Sherine Tadros on the security implications of the hacking incident. Vaile said that while it is no secret that hacking incidents happen, it appears that that Australia's "most significant government agencies" are…2013-05-28T09:57:14.000Z

Along with all of the American information stolen by the Chinese hackers was the secret plans to Australia’s new intelligence headquarters. The longstanding construction project, which has been stalled recently due to budget problems, would house intelligence operations for a joint venture with the United States and Great Britain. Australian officials are refusing to confirm or deny the attack but Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard did call the report made by the Australian Broadcasting Corporation “inaccurate.”

8.President Obama Meets With the Chinese President Next Month


The Washington Post reported that President Obama is expected to bring up the issue of Chinese government-backed cyber attacks next month when he meets with Chinese President Xi Jinping next month in California. The trip, and expected reprimand, comes during a rising tide of American criticism of Chinese cyber attacks.

9. A Report Says the U.S. is Not Ready for Cyber War

An advisory council of military personnel and and civilians known as the Defense Science Board published a report late last year explaining why the United States is not prepared for the new age of cyber espionage and warfare. You can read the full report here:

10. The Attack is a Major Risk to American Lives

According to The Washington Post and their government sources, the hack could potentially become a major risk to American lives. In a military conflict, the plans stolen by China could not only provide advanced weaponry to enemy combatants, but could also provide vital intelligence as to the weaknesses of American weapons, information about methods of communication, and a ways to corrupt electronic data.

Here is a list a more complete list of the information compromised via The Washington Post:

Terminal High Altitude Area Defense

Patriot Advanced Capability-3

Extended Area Protection and Survivability System (EAPS)





Advanced Harpoon Weapon Control System

Tanker Conversions

Long-term Mine Reconnaissance System

Global Hawk

Navy antenna mechanisms

Global Freight Management System

Micro Air Vehicle

Brigade Combat Team Modernization

Aegis Ballistic Missile Defense System

USMC Tracked Combat Vehicles

Warfighter Information Network-Tactical (WIN-T)

T700 Family of Engines

Full Authority Digital Engine Controller (FADEC)

UH-60 Black Hawk

AMRAAM (AIM-120 Advanced Medium-Range Air-to-Air Missile)

Affordable Weapons System

Littoral Combat Ship

Navy Standard Missile (SM-2,3,6)

P-8A/Multi-Mission Aircraft

F/A and EA-18

RC-135 Detect./Collect.

Mk54 Light Weight Torpedo


Directed Energy

UAV video system

Specific Emitter identification


Dual Use Avionics

Fuze/Munitions safety and development

Electronic Intelligence Processing

Tactical Data Links

Satellite Communications

Electronic Warfare

Advanced Signal Processing Technologies for Radars

Nanostructured Metal Matrix Composite for Light Weight Ballistic Armor

Vision-aided Urban Navigation & Collision Avoidance for Class I Unmanned Air Vehicles (UAV)

Space Surveillance Telescope

Materials/processing technologies

IR Search and Track systems

Electronic Warfare systems

Electromagnetic Aircraft Launch

Rail Gun

Side Scan sonar

Mode 5 IFF

Export Control, ITAR, Distribution Statement B,C,D Technical Information

CAD drawings, 3D models, schematics

Software code

Critical technology

Vendor/supply chain data

Technical manuals

PII (email addresses, SSN, credit card numbers, passwords, etc.)

Attendee lists for program reviews and meetings

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