In plain English: F-35s can be hacked.
The Washington Post recently got its hands on a classified part of a Pentagon report which outlined how Chinese hackers had compromised more than two dozen "critical" weapons systems — including the F-35 Lightning II fighter jet.
Now that China has the schematics to the most expensive weapons system in human history, it's fairly certain they'll try to devise ways to hack that system in order to counter it.
From The Christian Science Monitor:
Software can make up perhaps one-third of the value of weapons systems like the Patriot missile and other system, he notes. Software for other systems on the list may now need an overhaul in order to ensure their integrity, said James Lewis, a senior fellow and cybersecurity expert with the Center for Strategic and International Studies .
“If they got into the software code and left something behind, we’ve got a serious problem,” he says. “How do we know? We don’t. So the answer is that we have to redo the system to be sure it isn’t compromised," said Lewis.
What this means for the U.S. is a potentially critical vulnerability to hackers down to the level of individual weapons. As the Defense Science Board warned in January :
Should the United States find itself in a full-scale conflict with a peer adversary, attacks would be expected to include denial of service, data corruption, supply chain corruption, traitorous insiders, kinetic and related non-kinetic attacks at all altitudes from underwater to space. U.S. guns, missiles, and bombs may not fire, or may be directed against our own troops.
How China would achieve this is exactly how the U.S. planned to achieve it if intervention in Syria became a reality — from USA Today:
Electronic methods to disable enemy air defense systems include the injection of malware, a form of computer software, into the air defense network through a computer attack or by traditional electronic warfare aircraft capable of jamming radar.
So just like in the movie Independence Day, in theory Chinese hackers could use electronic warfare to give F-35 weapons systems a cold, make them sick, and essentially inoperable.
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