WASHINGTON-The Defense Department's Inspector General's office is investigating a major security breach after Chinese hackers stole large amounts of sensitive data from a Navy contractor, according to multiple military officials.
Beijing's expanded presence in the South China Sea has prompted U.S. Navy officials to develop new weapons such as supersonic anti-ship missiles.
The contractor that was subjected to the attack was not identified in the report, but it was revealed that its work was commissioned by the Naval Undersea Warfare Center, the Navy's research, development, test and evaluation center for submarines, as well as offensive and defensive undersea warfare.
Data stolen in the breach include plans for a supersonic missile project, United States officials told the Washington Post. "It would be inappropriate to discuss further details at this time", the US Navy said in response to a query from Reuters.
While the data was stored on an unclassified network belonging to the contractor, it is considered highly sensitive due to the nature of the technology under development and the links to military projects. The latter remains secretive: The only information released by the DoD is that it will integrate an existing weapon system with an existing Navy platform.
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It also comes as President Donald Trump continues to court Beijing in his efforts to denuclearize North Korea.
Other information stolen included signal and sensor data for submarines, information relating to cryptographic systems, and a Navy electronic warfare library.
"U.S. naval forces are going to have a really hard time operating in that area, except for submarines, because the Chinese don't have a lot of anti-submarine warfare capability", Bryan Clark, a naval analyst at the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments, told the Post. The information was reportedly on an unclassified network.
The last known breach of military secrets conducted by the Chinese government occurred in February, when Director of National Intelligence Daniel Coats testified before congress that cyber attacks were detected targeting defense contractors or tech firms supporting government networks, according to the Post.