About 11 days after a report indicated foreign cyberspies targeted the U.S. electrical grid, another report has revealed cyberspies successfully attacked the Pentagon's Joint Strike Fighter project, according to media reports. Several Joint Strike Fighter aircraft are already flying, with future development costs already factored into the Pentagon's budget in 2009 and 2010.
Intruders were able to copy saved information regarding the design and electronics systems of the F-35 Lightning II fighter jet, which could make it easier to defend against its capabilities. Computer systems used for the project were originally compromised as early as 2007, and have continued to be targeted by intruders.
Whoever was hacking into the system investigated the plane's design, performance statistics, and specific details regarding its electronic systems, according to the official. It appears computer networks used by contractors can be blamed for the original security breach, sources said. Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman, and BAE System are working on the project alongside the US government.
The most sensitive information -- which is stored on computers not connected to the internet -- was not breached by intruders, it was reported. All information stolen was encrypted during the theft, which has made it nearly impossible for government security experts to see which information was compromised.
The Air Force declined to make a statement to the Wall Street Journal, but an internal investigation was reportedly launched into the matter. It appears the attacks originated to Chinese IP addresses, investigators said with a "high level of certainty."
The federal government is aware there is a growing cyber threat from organized computer hacking rings, but has been very slow to react to the new threats. Hackers have targeted the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA)'s air traffic control system, along with the U.S. power infrastructure.
Many western nations, including officials in the U.S., blame China for launching organized attacks against numerous targets, though the Chinese government has shrugged off numerous accusations. The country "opposes and forbids all forms of cyber crimes," according to a statement issued by the Chinese Embassy.