United States officials say a year-long investigation shows that hackers linked to China’s government gained entry to U.S. computer systems. They say the computer attacks, acts of cyber espionage, were directed at the U.S. Transportation Command, also known as TRANSCOM. The agency is responsible for moving U.S. troops and military equipment around the world.
A new report says investigators explored a one-year period, from June 1, 2012 to May 30, 2013. They found evidence of about 50 attempted attacks on civilian contract workers of TRANSCOM during the year. At least 20 of those attacks were considered successful.
Experts say the attacks were very complex. They say hackers connected with a foreign government had to be responsible for them.
The report describes an “intrusion” on a TRANSCOM contractor between 2008 and 2010. It says hackers gained entry to the worker’s e-mail, documents, user passwords and computer codes. In 2010, another intrusion resulted in stolen documents, flight details, and e-mail passwords. All of the attacks were said to have been carried out by the Chinese military.
Michigan Senator Carl Levin heads the Senate committee responsible for the report. He said the intrusions are, in his words, "more evidence of China’s aggressive actions in cyberspace." He said they show the United States must do more to protect its computer systems.
Carl Baker is with the Pacific Forum in Hawaii. He says China has an interest in what U.S. officials tell the military.
"What they’re interested in is to see how the United States does global logistics because that’s an interesting topic for someone who sees themselves as becoming the next great superpower. They see that they have an interest in being able to coordinate global logistics like the United States military does. And so, I think that’s indicative of what I think we’re seeing from the Chinese that they see themselves as sort of the heir apparent to the global power that the United States is today."
Recently, China suspended its involvement with the United States in a cyber-security group. China has accused the United States of also carrying out cyber espionage.
William Martel teaches classes in International Security Studies at Tufts University. He says that government computer hacking is becoming more common.
"This is an increasingly common phenomenon, and it’s one that I think really puts at risk a lot of the things that we do in the national security sense and in overall economic and technological security."
William Martel says he is concerned that U.S. military operations remain vulnerable, or open to attack, from hackers.
"What you worry about is an organization or a group that has the capability that surprises you, particularly at a time when you have, as we do, have military operations and activities going on a global scale. This is potentially dangerous, worse if you’re involved in a war and all of a sudden you start having difficulties with logistics or other capabilities. That would be very painful."
He also says what is needed is an international system of rules on cyber security for governments, businesses and individuals.
One expert says cyber espionage may be costing the United States hundreds of billions of dollars. Denny Roy of the East-West Institute in Hawaii offers two solutions to fight against hackers. He says the United States can either hack into Chinese computer systems or reduce its own Internet activity on defense systems.
I’m Jonathan Evans.
Words in this Story
cyber – adj. relating to computers or computer networks
espionage – n. the things that are done to find out secrets from enemies or competitors; the activity of spying
hacker – n. a person who secretly gets access to a computer system in order to get information, cause damage, etc.
indictments – n. the act of officially charging
vulnerable – adj. open to attack, harm, or damage
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