China accused of hacking US Navy and NASA

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(Last Updated On: December 21, 2018)

The US Department of Justice has publicly released official allegation charges against a group of Chinese hackers who hacked American computer systems between the period of 2006 to 2018. Among the most noteworthy was the US Navy hack.

More than 100,000 sailors had their personally identifiable information stolen in the hack. This information included social security numbers, names, and phone numbers. The FBI and DOJ have identified the defendants as Zhu Hua and Zhang Shilong. Both of them allegedly belong to a Chinese state-sponsored hacking group.

The FBI and DOJ are adamant at bringing the criminals to justice, and most media outlets are stating the criminals intended to steal US intelligence. According to the FBI’s wanted a poster for the state-sponsored hacking group, known as Advanced Persistent Threat 10 (APT 10), or Cloudhopper, the group’s hacking campaign was widespread:

“As alleged in the Indictment, from at least 2006 through 2018, the defendants conducted extensive campaigns of global intrusions into computer systems aiming to steal, among other data, intellectual property and confidential business and technological information from more than at least 45 commercial and defense technology companies in at least a dozen states, managed service providers (“MSP”), which are companies that remotely manage the information technology infrastructure of businesses and governments around the world, and U.S. government agencies.”

This is extremely shocking to see that so many important people working in US agencies had their personal information hacked. China now has access to extremely secret technological projects that could be used for blackmail, or worse sold to Russia and other enemies.

But what will China do with personal information about 100,000 sailors’ information? The thing is there aren’t many details about what China’s intentions could be. There could also be the fact that the US is trying to protect its own secrets by not giving out any details.

It’s also possible there might not be much value in sailors’ personal information. But it is important to note that there is some unclassified information that could be of value — specifically its this statement contained in the dossier that concerns us.

So we have no clue as to what exactly got stolen which is quite infuriating because the public needs to be aware of what is happening right under their noses. The DOJ did not disclose any further details so it’s unclear when or if the information will be made public.

Another issue is we’re not clear which US Navy bases were impacted since every base in each State serves specific functions. The one in Bethesda, Maryland trains US military doctors where they are given their first orders upon graduating from the Uniformed Services University of Health and Sciences.

The base in Cleveland, Ohio has The Defense Finance and Accounting Service office located there. This is where a sailor’s payroll is generated and holds the information when the sailor stopped receiving payment.

The base in San Diego, California deploys all the troops to the Middle East. There is a lot of valuable information that the public would benefit from knowing but unfortunately the public is still unaware.

We don’t know exactly which bases got hacked, but we do know 1 in 3 sailors had their information stolen. So it’s a huge cause of concern. Troops are taught early on how valuable their secrecy is. Most troops are taught that even a scrap of information could be used to gain an advantage on the enemy.

China could pretty much connect the dots to extrapolate small bits and pieces of data to get a complete picture. The country could even manage to get all the information about each troop’s geolocation. China could even gather information about troops whose accounts did not get hacked. It would just need to do a little bit of guesswork, using the data it hacked to create connections between each sailor.

If China feels like there is something worth hiding, it will probably be the first place to get hacked. Just take a look at the Mariott hack that occurred. China somehow knew that the line of hotels is frequented by army officers.

It had little trouble gaining the network’s access. TNW reached out to the US Navy for more details regarding the leaked information. Navy spokesperson Lt. Cmdr. Liza Dougherty, explained that the Navy ensures that personnel is immediately informed when their identity has been compromised. According to Dougherty, the Navy considers personal information very sacred (as it should).

Doughtery couldn’t add more to the conversation as the investigation was still ongoing and she couldn’t risk jeopardizing it.

China and US relationship have been extremely rocky in 2018. Both countries have had trust issues, probably stemming from trade sanctions. US public wants the majority of jobs to stay in the US but big corporations benefit from exporting their businesses to China, because of low labor costs.

But it seems the public’s concern might have triggered China who into getting defensive and cutting ties with the US. When Huawei’s CFO was arrested due to allegations of illegal trading, the relationship drifted even further.

It’s a global war being fought on computers. And in the age of information, enemies can do more harm than actual bloodshed, this way. It will be hard to get along unless a neutral party gets involved to try and resolve matters between the USA and China. It could be an ally close to both countries.

But as we know peace is seldom found in the dark world, we are currently leading our lives in.

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