Chinese military hackers gained access to classified defense networks in Japan beginning in 2020, accessing information about the U.S. ally’s military capabilities and plans, according to a Washington Post report published Monday.
The National Security Agency discovered the hack in the fall of 2020, the Post reported Monday, describing the invasion as deep and persistent with hackers—cyberspies from the People’s Liberation Army—gaining access to plans, capabilities and assessments of military shortcomings, multiple former senior U.S. officials told the Post.
The heads of the NSA reportedly went to Tokyo upon hearing about the hack to brief Japan’s defense minister, who asked the pair to inform the Japanese prime minister themselves.
While the hacks began under the Trump administration, they persisted into the Biden administration as well with officials discovering new information in 2021 that showed the continued breach of Japan’s defense systems and a lack of progress in stopping the leaks.
The U.S. and Japan ultimately agreed to use a Japanese commercial firm to assess the vulnerabilities, with the U.S. NSA/Cyber Command team reviewing the firm’s findings and making recommendations on how to seal any gaps, the Post reported.
The State Department did not immediately respond to Forbes’ request for comment.
“It was bad — shockingly bad,” a former U.S. military official who was briefed on the event told the Post.
4,000. That’s how many people Japanese officials said they plan to add to their military cyber security force in the next five years in an effort to increase network security, according to the Post. In addition they’ve launched a Cyber Command to monitor Japanese networks 24/7, a Japanese defense official told the Post, with plans to spend $7 billion over five years on cybersecurity.
This is not the first reported case of Chinese state-sponsored hacking which is becoming increasingly common as the country has expanded its cyber capabilities. Last month, China-based hackers gained access to the email accounts of some 25 organizations, including U.S. government agencies. Among those affected were officials at the U.S. State Department and Commerce Department including the email account of Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo and the U.S. ambassador to China. China has also targeted transportation, communications and utility systems, according to Microsoft. In May, the company said it uncovered “stealthy and targeted” activity to gain access to critical infrastructure organizations in the U.S. carried out by a state-sponsored actor in China.
What To Watch For
Japanese officials’ slow response to prevent future hacks and strengthen its networks could slow how much information U.S. officials share with their strongest ally in the region, officials told the Post.
China hacked Japan’s sensitive defense networks, officials say (Washington Post)
Chinese Email Hack: Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo And State Department Officials Among Affected (Forbes)
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