A cybersecurity firm reports that Chinese hackers have stolen technical data for the Iron Dome rocket-defense system from Israeli computers.
Maryland-based Cyber Engineering Services detected the cyber burglary, according to cybersecurity writer Brian Krebs.
“Between Oct. 10, 2011 and Aug. 13, 2012, attackers thought to be operating out of China hacked into the corporate networks of three top Israeli defense technology companies, including Elisra Group, Israel Aerospace Industries, and Rafael Advanced Defense Systems,” Krebs writes.
“By tapping into the secret communications infrastructure set up by the hackers, CyberESI determined that the attackers exfiltrated large amounts of data from the three companies,” he continues.
“Most of the information was intellectual property pertaining to Arrow III missiles, Unmanned Aerial Vehicles, ballistic rockets and other technical documents in the same fields of study.”
CyberESI believes the culprits were the “Comment Crew,” a hacking group sponsored by the Chinese military. Mandiant, a Virgina-based cybersecurity firm, has further identified this group as “the 2nd Bureau of the People’s Liberation Army General Staff Department’s 3rd Department, which is most commonly known by its Military Unit Cover Designator as Unit 61398.”
Unit 61398 has been so aggressive in stealing American secrets that the U.S. Justice Department indicted four alleged members last May. The FBI wanted poster shows two of the men wearing what appear to be Chinese military uniforms.
In fact, the most recent thefts have victimized America as much as Israel. The Arrow is a joint Israeli-American missile defense system. U.S. defense contractors wrote many of the stolen documents.
Tiny Israel has an enormous cybersecurity industry and a deep pool of hackers and anti-hackers who learned their trade in the Israeli military. So if China can break into top-secret Israeli computers, they can break into America’s—and everybody else’s, too.
But what Beijing will do with the Iron Dome information is an open question. Iron Dome is narrowly optimized for intercepting Katyusha rockets before they land on cities. Shooting down U.S. stealth bombers or cruise missiles would seem to be a higher priority for China.