Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Pentagon Computers Hacked - Joint Strike Fighter Project Data This Time

The article is dated April 21, 2009 - and it's not the sort of thing I like to read at around 1 in the morning.

"Computer spies have broken into the Pentagon's $300 billion Joint Strike Fighter project -- the Defense Department's costliest weapons program ever -- according to current and former government officials familiar with the attacks.

"Similar incidents have also breached the Air Force's air-traffic-control system in recent months, these people say. In the case of the fighter-jet program, the intruders were able to copy and siphon off several terabytes of data related to design and electronics systems....

"The latest intrusions provide new evidence that a battle is heating up between the U.S. and potential adversaries over the data networks that tie the world together. The revelations follow a recent Wall Street Journal report that computers used to control the U.S. electrical-distribution system, as well as other infrastructure, have also been infiltrated by spies abroad.

"Attacks like these -- or U.S. awareness of them -- appear to have escalated in the past six months, said one former official briefed on the matter. 'There's never been anything like it,' this person said, adding that other military and civilian agencies as well as private companies are affected. 'It's everything that keeps this country going.'..." (WSJ)

On the other hand, I'm rather glad that Americans can read this sort of not-entirely-complimentary news about their country. Which is another topic.

Several terabytes of weapons system data in the hands of a potential enemy isn't a good thing, no matter how much value is put on "transparency." Worse, I think, is the possibility that North America's power grid could be shut down.

We've had blackouts before, notably in 1965, 1977, and 2003. To everyone except conspiracy theorists, those were accidents: and involved a fraction of the power grid. I don't think it's at all impossible that a coordinated, willful, effort to compromise the grid would be more effective than a single breaker near Niagara tripping at the wrong time.

"Cold War Mentality" and the Real World

Much of the article is old news.

America's military, taking their mandate to protect the country seriously, has noted that China is been steadily improving its online warfare capability. And, that a number of recent attacks point at China.

China's government says 'did not!'

As The Wall Street Journal put it:

"...The Chinese Embassy said in a statement that China 'opposes and forbids all forms of cyber crimes.' It called the Pentagon's report 'a product of the Cold War mentality' and said the allegations of cyber espionage are 'intentionally fabricated to fan up China threat sensations.' ..." (WSJ)

That's probably the line that Americans who like to appear sophisticated and/or open minded will take. Again, nothing new.

There's a War on, People

Despite the White House officially removing "war on terror" from America's authorized lexicon, there are sill quite a few organizations which want to kill Americans and change this country: violently.

That may not be a "war," officially, but it's going to feel like one no matter how nicely its described.

The Chinese connection with these cyberattacks doesn't surprise me at all. China is certainly not an Islamic country: but as I've written quite often, not all terrorists are Muslims. And China's leaders could easily see Al Qaeda, the Taliban, and similar groups as useful allies.

I think there's reason to believe that China's leadership wants to extend its influence beyond the borders of China and Tibet - or Xizang province, as China calls the country, now that it's been "liberated" and made part of China.

I do not agree with the official Chinese position, that the American military's assessment of the Chinese threat is "Cold War mentality." I have more respect for China's leaders than that. I see China as a large country which has not yet succeeded in decimating its own population: a country with significant technical capabilities, a potentially strong economy, significant natural resources, and an understandable desire for a place of prominence in the world.

I have no problem with China becoming a major economic power, provided that the Chinese markets are comparatively open.

However, there's good reason to suppose that China may be trying to assert itself the old-fashioned way: through raw power, intimidation, and sabotage. This, I have a problem with.

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Note! Although I believe that these websites and blogs are useful resources for understanding the War on Terror, I do not necessarily agree with their opinions. 1 1 Given a recent misunderstanding of the phrase "useful resources," a clarification: I do not limit my reading to resources which support my views, or even to those which appear to be accurate. Reading opinions contrary to what I believed has been very useful at times: sometimes verifying my previous assumptions, sometimes encouraging me to change them.

Even resources which, in my opinion, are simply inaccurate are sometimes useful: these can give valuable insights into why some people or groups believe what they do.

In short, It is my opinion that some of the resources in this blogroll are neither accurate, nor unbiased. I do, however, believe that they are useful in understanding the War on Terror, the many versions of Islam, terrorism, and related topics.