China's military hacked into computer networks of civilian transportation companies hired by the Pentagon at least nine times, breaking into computers aboard a commercial ship, targeting logistics companies and uploading malicious software onto an airline's computers, Senate investigators said Wednesday.
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A yearlong investigation announced by the Senate Armed Services Committee identified at least 20 break-ins or other unspecified cyber events targeting companies, including nine successful break-ins of contractor networks. It blamed China's government for all the most sophisticated intrusions, although it did not provide any detailed evidence. The Senate report did not identify which transportation companies were victimized.
China's government did not immediately respond to telephone messages and emails from The Associated Press requesting comment in Beijing and to its embassy in Washington.
Investigators said China's military was able to steal emails, documents, user accounts and computer codes. They said it compromised systems aboard a commercial ship contracted by Transcom for logistics routes, and hacked into an airline the U.S. military used.
"The security of our military operations are at stake here," said the panel's chairman, Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., who called his committee's findings "very disturbing."
The newly declassified Senate report says defense contractors have generally failed to report to the Pentagon hacker break-ins of their systems as required under their business agreements.
Earlier this summer, in an apparently unrelated investigation, the U.S. accused five members of the Chinese military of hacking computers for economic espionage purposes. It accused them of hacking into five U.S. nuclear and technology companies' computer systems and a major steel workers union's system, conducting economic espionage and stealing confidential business information, sensitive trade secrets and internal communications for competitive advantage.
Although Attorney General Eric Holder vowed to bring them to a U.S. courtroom to face the groundbreaking criminal charges, they are believed to be living freely.