Foreign spies stole files from US defence contractor: Pentagon

Foreign spies stole files from US defence contractor: Pentagon

Unveiling Pentagon's first cyber strategy, Deputy Defense Secretary William Lynn said the theft occurred in March and was believed to have been carried out by a foreign intelligence service and targeted files at a defense contractor developing weapons systems and defense equipment.

"The theft of design data and engineering information from within these networks undermines the technological edge we hold over potential adversaries.

It is a significant concern that over the past decade, terabytes of data have been extracted by foreign intruders from corporate networks of defense companies. In a single intrusion this March, 24,000 files were taken," Lynn said.

"When looking across the intrusions of the last few years, some of the stolen data is mundane, like the specifications for small parts of tanks, airplanes, and submarines.

But a great deal of it concerns our most sensitive systems, including aircraft avionics, surveillance technologies, satellite communications systems, and network security protocols," he said.

"The cyber exploitation being perpetrated against the defense industry cuts across a wide swath of crucial military hardware, extending from missile tracking systems and satellite navigation devices to UAVs and the Joint Strike Fighter," Lynn said.

Observing that the current countermeasures have not stopped this outflow of sensitive information, he said: "We need to do more to guard our digital storehouses of design innovation."

Lynn said in looking at the current landscape of malicious activity, the most prevalent cyber threat to date has been exploitation-the theft of information and intellectual property from government and commercial networks.

To date, he said, malicious cyber activity has been directed at nearly every sector of infrastructure and economy.

The IMF, Citibank, Sony's PlayStation Network, the secure token provider RSA, Google, NASDAQ, and multiple energy firms have been targeted, he noted.

Cyber intruders have been so effective that even companies employing sophisticated commercial defenses have also fallen victim, he added.

"This kind of cyber exploitation does not have the sudden payoff of a bank heist or the dramatic impact of a conventional military attack. But by blunting our edge in military technology, and enabling foreign competitors to copy the fruits of our commercial innovation, it has a deeply corrosive effect over the long-term.

It is hard to know how much damage this digital thievery does to our economic competitiveness and national security, but a recent estimate pegged cumulative economic losses at over a trillion dollars," he said.

Lynn said if a terrorist group gains disruptive or destructive cyber tools, one has to assume they will strike with little hesitation.

And it is clear that terrorist groups, as well as rogue states, are intent on acquiring, refining, and expanding their cyber capabilities, he added.

Revealing the new cyber strategy, Lynn said Defense Department is treating cyberspace as an operational domain, like land, air, sea, and space.

Treating cyberspace as a domain means that the military needs to operate and defend its networks, and to organize, train, and equip its forces to perform cyber missions.

"Second, we are introducing new operating concepts on our networks, including active *cyber* defenses. These active defenses use sensors, software, and signatures to detect and stop malicious code before it affects our operations-thereby denying the benefit of an attack," he said.

"The third and fourth pillars of our strategy recognize the interconnectedness of cyberspace and the diversity of uses to which it is put, by individuals, in our economies, and across nations," he said.

On the international front, he said, the US has partnered with Australia, Canada, Britain, and its NATO allies.

"Under the President's International Strategy, we will seek greater cooperation with more nations in the coming months," he said.

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