Defense contractors are under consistent attack by foreign intelligence services attempting to gather intelligence related information, according to a report by the Defense Security Service. Instances of cyber espionage place the U.S.“™s competitive advantage, technical lead and military advantage at risk, as well as potentially compromising national security interests.
“United States defense-related technologies and information are under attack: each day, every hour, and from multiple sources. The attack is pervasive, relentless, and unfortunately, at times successful,” writes Kathleen Watson, director of DSS. “As a result, the United States’ technical lead, competitive edge, and strategic military advantage are at risk; and our national security interests could be compromised.”
East Asia and the Pacific region were hosts to the highest number of intelligence collection attempts.
“For the fifth year in a row, reporting with an East Asia and Pacific nexus far exceeded those from any other region suggesting a continuing, concerted, and growing effort to exploit contacts within United States industry for competitive, economic, and military advantage,“ the report states.
Attempts to gather intelligence information were traced to over half of the countries in the world. After East Asia and the Pacific, the Near East and Europe and Eurasia were of greatest counterintelligence concern. Despite their overall decline, “European and Eurasian cyber actors remain some of the most active targeters of United States technology.“
Additionally, efforts by commercial entities to gather intelligence have grown which “likely represents a purposeful attempt to make the contacts seem more innocuous, shifting focus from government collectors to commercial or non-traditional entities.”
Direct requests for information served as the primary tool for intelligence gathering. This was followed by suspicious Internet activity and solicitation.
“Facilitated by ever increasing world wide connectivity, the ease of inundating industry with overt email requests and webpage submissions made direct requests a premier vehicle for solicitation and/or collection,” the report states. “While not all direct requests for information or services represent organized collection attempts, exploitation of this medium provides collectors an efficient, low-cost, high-gain opportunity to acquire classified or restricted information.”
The report also found that information systems, aeronautics, lasers and optics and sensors were the highest collection priorities.
DSS has also seen increasing attempts to target UAV technology as well. This is seen more as an effort at economic espionage by the DSS.
“Targeting of UAVs is non-region specific, broadly based, and spans all phases of research, development, and deployment,“ the report said. “It is highly likely that this interest and probable targeting is the direct result of a growing and increasingly competitive world market for UAV systems.“
UAVs are likely to remain a principle target of foreign collection activities, particularly given the growing market in UAVs.