A US Senate panel has ruled that hackers associated with the Chinese government have repeatedly infiltrated the computer systems of US airlines, technology companies and other contractors involved in the movement of US troops and military equipment.
The Senate Armed Services Committee’s year-long probe found the military’s US Transportation Command, or Transcom, was aware of only two out of at 20 such cyber intrusions within a single year.
It found gaps in reporting requirements and a lack of information sharing among US government bodies which left the US military oblivious to the computer compromises of its contractors.
Democratic Senator Carl Levin of Michigan, the committee’s chairman was keen to focus on the Chinese hackers rather that the big defence industry’s cock-ups.
He said that the peacetime intrusions into the networks of key defence contractors are more evidence of China’s aggressive actions in cyberspace.
But cybersecurity expert Dmitri Alperovitch, chief technology officer with the security firm Crowdstrike, said that China had for years shown a keen interest in the logistical patterns of the U.S. military.
While its military uses secret or top-secret networks that are not on the Internet, but the US private companies hired by the US do not.
In the year beginning June 1, 2012, there were about 50 intrusions or other cyber events into the computer networks of Transcom contractors, the 52-page report stated.
At least 20 of those were successful intrusions attributed to an “advanced persistent threat,” a term used to designate sophisticated threats commonly associated with attacks against governments. All of those intrusions were attributed to China.
Senator Jim Inhofe of Oklahoma, the committee’s top Republican, called for a “central clearinghouse” that makes it easy for contractors to report suspicious cyber activity.