A 57-page internal Navy review provided to the Wall Street Journal paints a dire picture regarding an ongoing cyber war pitting hackers against the sea service.
The review was brought to Navy Secretary Richard Spencer last week, before being leaked to the Journal and published Tuesday. It depicts the Navy and its contractors “under cyber siege” by a host of nefarious actors — including Chinese government hackers — who have exploited critical flaws in U.S. cyber security to steal troves of national security secrets from the defense industry.
“For years, global competitors, and adversaries, have targeted and breached these critical contractor systems with impunity,” the review reads, according to the Journal.
“These enterprises, regardless of their relationship with the department, are under cyber siege.”
The review is sourced from research and interviews with senior officials in President Donald J. Trump’s administration, according to the Journal. The threat is posed not only to the naval service, but its contractors and subcontractors as well.
Focusing on a series of data breaches over the previous 18 months, the review was launched in October, according to a memo authored by the SECNAV’s office.
The final report claims that although the U.S. is aware of cyber attacks by foreign hackers, the government has struggled to respond to the large number of breaches and has failed to effectively warn its defense contractors.
In one incident during January and February of 2018, Chinese government hackers compromised the computers of a Navy contractor and harvested sensitive data dealing with undersea warfare, including plans for a supersonic anti-ship missile, the Washington Post reported in June.
The Journal said the audit also faults Navy leaders for failing to anticipate that adversaries would attack the defense industry.
“We are under siege,” a senior Navy official said in the report. “People think it’s much like a deathly virus — if we don’t do anything, we could die.”
The document reports that China’s involvement in hacking has boosted its military prowess, "thereby altering the calculus of global power,” the Journal added.
Kyle Rempfer is an editor and reporter who has covered combat operations, criminal cases, foreign military assistance and training accidents. Before entering journalism, Kyle served in U.S. Air Force Special Tactics and deployed in 2014 to Paktika Province, Afghanistan, and Baghdad, Iraq. Follow on Twitter @Kyle_Rempfer