Chinese Hackers help China build J-20 Stealth Fighter with US Tech

China's J-20 Dragon

The Chinese latest J-20 Stealth Fighter comes sporting some of the latest cutting edge technology advances – which were stolen from the US during a cyber espionage campaign.

According to defense officials, starting in 2007 Chinese hackers were involved in a massive, multi-year cyber espionage program dubbed, “Operation Byzantine Hades”, that targeted foreign governments and industry.

At the expense of American companies, Chinese hackers have done wonders for China’s technical capabilities, especially their military research and development. By infiltrating American military subcontractors, and stealing top secret documents, Chinese hackers were able to save millions of dollars and cut decades off of R&D time.

According to an article in the Chinese Global Times,  the following techs used in the J-20 were “obtained” from the F-35:

  • Diverterless supersonic inlet
  • Electro-optical distributed aperture system
  • Electro-optical targeting system
  • AVEN nozzle
  • Fire-control array radar system

Earlier this year the Pentagon also revealed that the designs for the new Terminal High Altitude Area Defense missile systems and the Patriot Advanced Capability-3 (PAC-3) missile defenses had also been compromised.

Some aviation technologist are saying that with the tech upgrades that were stolen from the US, the J-20 might be a better match for our F-22 (which it suspiciously looks like) instead of the F-35. And with their massive production capability, this could really cause a shift in their air power capabilities.

Many reports have surfaced about various problems with the F-35. From cracked bulkheads, to issues with the plane’s Autonomic Logistics Information System. Some experts have even called out the F-35 saying it is a waste of money, unsafe and incapable of performing as billed.

One of the outspoken critics of the F-35 is Pierre Sprey, co-designer of the F-16 and the A-10. Of the F-35 he said, “It’s as if Detroit suddenly put out a car with lighter fluid in the radiator and gasoline in the hydraulic brake lines,” he told me. “That’s how unsafe this plane is. Plopping down a fighter this full of bugs and this untested in the middle of a populated area is just nuts.

This YouTube video by Sprey is also enlightening:

We can’t go back in time and undo what was done, or recover the secrets stolen by the Chinese. All we can hope with the J-20 at this point is that China also copied the F-35’s problems.




Russian “Cyber” Snake attacking Ukrainian Systems

Snake BAE

Everyone is expecting Russia to attack Ukrainian computer systems, but the truth may be that they have been doing so right along. One alleged Russian based cyber espionage tool named “Snake” has been active in the Ukraine and other places (even the US) since 2005.

Snake is named after Ouroboros in Ancient Greek mythology, and it was usually displayed as a snake or a dragon eating its own tail. The inference is that of something that is constantly re-creating itself.

Snake infections have been located in several countries – the US Department of Defense have been breached by an earlier version of the program. But as of 2013, the espionage tool usage seems to be aggressively targeting systems in the Ukraine:

Snake samples

BAE systems have recently released a report on Snake. According to the report, the tool seems to have originated from a nation that could fund sophisticated and expensive attack tools.

Martin Sutherland, Managing Director, BAE Systems Applied Intelligence said, “What this research once more demonstrates, is how organised and well-funded adversaries are using highly sophisticated tools and techniques to target legitimate organisations on a massive scale.”

And, “Although there has been some awareness of the Snake malware for some years, until now the full scale of its capabilities could not be revealed, and the threat it presents is clearly something that needs to be taken much more seriously.”

Snake allows remote access to an infected system, can hide and ex-filtrate pilfered data, seeks to infect other systems, uses stealthy communication techniques, has a rootkit section and can even bypass security features of 64 bit Windows systems.

A couple tell tail clues found during analysis, including time zone information and the language used in some lines of code seem to point to Russia as the tool creator. And with he increased attacks on the Ukraine within the last year makes Russia look even more the culprit.

BAE System’s report covers:

  • How the malware communicates,
  • The distinctive architectures which have evolved over the years,
  • The use of novel tricks to by-pass Windows security,
  • How it hides from traditional defensive tools.

Check out the full report on BAE’s website.

Own a Fully Functional WWII Enigma Machine with “Open Enigma”

For those interested in WWII history or cryptology, one item that still carries with it an air of mystique and awe is the German Enigma Machine. Well, now you can own or make your own!

The electro-mechanical rotor cipher Enigma machines used by the Germans were once considered unbreakable until Allied forces reverse-engineered it allowing them to read top secret Axis correspondence.

Now teachers, history buffs and crypto fans can own their very own fully functional Enigma machine!

Check out the open source, Arduino based “Open Enigma Project” a KickStarter project by S&T Geotronics:

So cool!

Cyber Conflict in the Crimea – Russia already on the Offensive

updated 3/4/2014 -As Russian troops surround military bases in Ukraine, the attacks in the cyber realm have already begun. Ukraine lawmakers are reporting that Russians are attacking their mobile phones.

I confirm that an IP-telephonic attack is under way on mobile phones of members of Ukrainian parliament for the second day in row,” said Valentyn Nalivaichenko, head of Ukraine’s SBU security service.

At the entrance to (telecoms firm) Ukrtelecom in Crimea, illegally and in violation of all commercial contracts, was installed equipment that blocks my phone as well as the phones of other deputies, regardless of their political affiliation.

Russia, looking more and more like Cold War Soviet Union under Putin, has moved combat troops across the Crimean Peninsula. The move is very reminiscent of the Russian invasion of Georgia in 2008.

And as Russian troops attacked Georgia on the ground, they also flooded them with cyber attacks. This has led many wondering when Russia’s very capable cyber forces would begin attacking the Ukraine’s Infrastructure.

Well, it would seem the moves have already begun.

On Friday, Ukraine’s largest telecom company announced that voice and data connectivity between Crimea and the rest of Ukraine had been interrupted. Remember that this also happened in Georgia when Russian troops invaded.

Though it would seem from reports that instead of using cyber attacks to accomplish this, Russian troops physically cut and sabotaged power and communication lines.

Also, the propaganda machine seems to be in full swing as Pro-Ukraine messages and sites have been blocked on Russian social media sites. News media has been involved too.

There seems to be a marked difference between the English and Russian version of news site, with the English version being very critical of US and Ukraine, while the Russian version is very different. This hasn’t seemed to escape the attention of pro-Ukraine hackers, as was apparently hacked on Sunday.

The word “Nazi” was inserted in several places on the English version of the main page: acknowledged that they had been hacked, and the page was restored within a short amount of time.

But will Ukraine be as susceptible to Russian cyber attacks as Georgia was? It would appear that though not a member of NATO, Ukraine has recently worked with them to address security issues.

In November NATO and partner members examined cyber security strategies in Ukraine. Volodymyr Porodko, Deputy Chairman of the Security Service of Ukraine stressed its importance, “The relevance of cyber security as a component of national security is driven by the global tendency of unlawful activity being transferred into the virtual realm. This problem does not concern only the interests of the state and society as a whole, but has a direct bearing on every individual.”

But has enough been done to protect Ukrainian infrastructure from Russian hackers?

According to reports, Ukraine does have a capable cyber force and will likely pull a lot of support from western hacktivists. And Russia does have more critical online systems than Ukraine.

Only time will tell how this will play out, but for now, all eyes are on the Crimea.