American officials are accusing China of stealing sensitive data related to naval warfare from a Navy contractor. The computers of a company working for the Naval Undersea Warfare Center, based in Newport, R.I., were infiltrated by suspected Chinese government hackers in January and February of this year. The officials said the data stolen was of a highly sensitive nature despite being housed on the contractor’s unclassified network.
According to the officials, the highly sensitive undersea warfare data included 614 gigabytes of signals and sensor data, submarine radio room information, plans for a supersonic anti-ship missile for U.S. submarines and the Navy submarine development unit’s electronic warfare library. The Navy is reportedly investigating the breach with the help of the F.B.I.
The Chinese embassy released a statement saying that it knows nothing about the reported hacking. An embassy spokesperson added that the Chinese government “staunchly upholds cyber security, firmly opposes and combats all forms of cyber attacks in accordance with law.” Navy officials declined to speak publicly about the hack.
Washington has long struggled to deter Chinese hacking. The Chinese military actively recruits skilled hackers to steal corporate trade secrets to benefit Chinese state-owned industries. Chinese hackers were also suspected of the sophisticated hack of the Office of Personnel Management that stole sensitive personal information on 21.5 million Americans who had filed extensive questionnaires with the government for security clearances.
Beijing has been making rapid gains in cyber and military technology in recent years. The United States and China are now tangling over Beijing’s militarization of disputed islands in the South China Sea. China has been stationing advanced military equipment and missiles there in a flagrant show of military power. While Defense Secretary Jim Mattis has harshly criticized the Chinese government for continuing to militarize the islands, it is unclear what, if any, moves the current administration is willing to make on the issue.