The Pentagon lost 24,000 files related to a Department of Defense system after a contractor was allegedly hacked by a foreign intelligence agency in March, a top official has revealed.
The attack was not believed to be related to RSA SecurID tokens, which were compromised in the same month.
“It is a significant concern that over the past decade, terabytes of data have been extracted by foreign intruders from corporate networks of defense companies," Deputy Defense Secretary William Lynn said in a speech to the National Defense University at Fort McNair.
A single intrusion in March led to the loss of 24,000 files, Lynn said.
A “great deal” of the data stolen in multiple attacks over the past decade concerned “our most sensitive systems", Lynn said, including data pertaining to aircraft avionics, surveillance technologies, satellite communications systems, and network security protocols.
“[It] cuts across a wide swathe of crucial military hardware, extending from missile tracking systems and satellite navigation devices to UAVs and the Joint Strike Fighter," he said.
News that data from military contractors Lockheed Martin, L-3 Communications and Northrop Gruman was breached due to the compromise of RSA SecurID tokens in March led to many organisations abandoning the tokens.
Australia’s national intelligence agency, the Defence Signals Directorate, recommended government agencies replace SecurID tokens.
Lynn refused to disclose what intelligence agency was thought to be behind the attacks but a foreign intelligence agency was most likely to blame.
He restated that US Defense “is prepared to defend itself” against attacks “with a proportional and justified military response at the time and place of our choosing”.
He said it was “difficult to overstate” the Department of Defense's reliance on online networks.
The agency operated 15,000 networks, seven million computing devices in dozens of countries, and used cyberspace for military and intelligence purposes, including command and control operations and the movement of personnel and material.