The sophisticated cyberattack into U.S. defense contractor LockHeed Martin Corp. highlights the grave threat cyber criminals pose to companies, especially weapons manufacturers.
Though Lockheed claims the recent hack attack did not compromise the data on its customers, programs or employees as its cyber security team had detected the attack almost immediately and had taken aggressive actions to protect its computer network, the attack has exposed the vulnerability of companies and shows how cyber espionage is evolving and could become more of a serious threat to governments and companies in the near future.
For instance, Internet search engine giant Google acknowledged last year that it had been the victim of a sophisticated cyberattack that resulted in the loss of significant intellectual property.
Last month, Japanese consumer technology major Sony announced its PlayStation Network (PSN) was breached and the hackers could have probably stolen personal information of about 75 million PlayStation users, including credit card information.
Sony had to shut down PSN for several weeks. Sony's Qriocity music service also went offline after the company discovered that personal information of over 25 million users were stolen.
The hack attacks caused 14 billion yen (about $171 million) loss to Sony, besides damaging its brand image.
Lockheed's cyberattack is, however, more serious as it is the world's biggest aerospace company and makes F-16, F-22 and F-35 fighter jets as well as warships. Lockheed makes fighter planes, spy satellites and other confidential equipment for the U.S. It also sells cybersecurity services to military and intelligence agencies around the world and experts say its failure to take greater precautions with its own systems could be embarrassing.
However, this is not the first cyberattack Lockheed has witnessed. In 2009, the company became the victim of an attack, which cyber experts claim, originated from China. The hackers stole sensitive data on the US Air Force’s Joint Strike Fighter jet program.
But this time the U.S. Department of Defense said its weapons programs was safe.
According to Eric Hutchins, a Lockheed cyber intelligence analyst, it's a cat-and-mouse game between the two sides.
They're constantly trying to develop new ways of attacking us and we're constantly trying to develop new ways of defending us, he told Reuters.
Industry experts say military contractors like Lockheed generally do not keep classified data on computers that can be entered remotely as the networks of such companies are attacked regularly by hackers. The source of such hacking are mostly traced to Russia and China, they say.
Lockheed did not disclose the source of the hack attack but assured its customers that their information was not compromised.
We have policies and procedures in place to mitigate the cyberthreats to our business, and we remain confident in the integrity of our robust, multilayered information systems security, Jeffery Adams, a Lockheed spokesman said in a statement.