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Report: China hacked sensitive US Navy data

June 9, 2018

China's government hacked 614 gigabytes of data from the US Navy, according to a Washington Post report. The revelations come as a former CIA officer was convicted for sharing information with China in exchange for cash.

The US aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson in the South China Sea
Image: Getty Images/AFP/L. Pham

Chinese government hackers stole a large amount of sensitive data from a US Navy contractor, including plans to develop a new type of submarine-launched anti-ship missile, The Washington Post reported on Friday.

The hackers targeted a contractor who works for the Naval Undersea Warfare Center, a military entity based in Newport, Rhode Island, the unnamed officials said without identifying the contractor, according to the Post.

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The hacked data comprised 614 gigabytes of information about a project known as Sea Dragon, as well as signals and sensor data, submarine radio room information relating to cryptographic systems and the Navy submarine development unit's electronic warfare library, the newspaper reported.

The hacking occurred in January and February, the officials told the Post, speaking on condition of anonymity about an ongoing investigation that is being led by the Navy with assistance from the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI).

The Impact of Data Theft

"Per federal regulations, there are measures in place that require companies to notify the government when a 'cyber incident' has occurred that has actual or potential adverse effects on their networks that contain controlled unclassified information. It would be inappropriate to discuss further details at this time," the US Navy said in response to questions from Reuters.

The Post said it had agreed to withhold some details about the missile project after the Navy said their release could potentially harm national security.

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The revelation of the hack comes as tensions between Beijing and Washington continue to rise over a range of issues including trade and military matters.

Last month the Pentagon withdrew China's invitation to join maritime exercises in the Pacific because of Beijing's "continued militarization" of the South China Sea.

Former CIA officer convicted

Also on Friday, a former CIA officer was convicted of espionage for providing China with top-secret information in exchange for $25,000 (€21,200), the US Justice Department said.

Kevin Mallory was charged under the Espionage Act in 2017 after he was discovered with more than $16,000 in undeclared cash on a return flight from Shanghai.

A federal jury in Virginia found Mallory, 61, guilty of delivering defense information to aid a foreign government and other charges. He will face a maximum penalty of life in prison when he is sentenced on September 21, the department said in a statement.

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Officials found four documents, including three containing classified information, on a Samsung Galaxy smartphone that Mallory was given for secret communications by Michael Yang, a man Mallory met when he went to Shanghai in March and April 2017, according to court documents.

Mallory told the FBI in a voluntary interview that Yang worked for the People's Republic of China Intelligence Service, the statement said.

One of the documents on the phone "contained unique identifiers for human sources who had helped the US government," it said.

Federal prosecutors said Mallory's actions were far from isolated as China tries to gather classified US information.

"The People's Republic of China has made a sophisticated and concerted effort to steal our nation's secrets," Assistant Attorney General John Demers said. "Today's conviction demonstrates that we remain vigilant against this threat and hold accountable all those who put the United States at risk through espionage," he added.

law/bw (AFP, AP, Reuters)