It is being reported that Chinese state-sponsored hackers have been combing Penn State’s College of Engineering servers for the past two years. The significance of this development is that the university receives federal funds to conduct research and development for the United States Navy.
The university’s servers will be taken offline for the coming days while investigators search for clues as to what was taken, and how they penetrated the security system. The FBI initially notified the University last November of possible activity being conducted by nefarious actors.
While the threat from Chinese hackers is ever growing, analysts have stated their concerns regarding the increase of foreign graduate students attending American technical universities. Since 2010, there has been a drastic increase in Chinese scholars acting on the behest of their government. While in recent years the level of Chinese students has decreased, this has coincided with an increase in hacking coming from China.
The Chinese government is doing anything in their power to close the military gap between the United States and themselves. By stealing information from our university, either through hacking or human intelligence, their military is able to develop new technology at a fraction of the cost and time required by the U.S. government.
China’s desired goal of regional influence revolves around controlling the South China Sea and the corresponding shipping lanes. The only way they will be able to do this is by breaking down the United States’ naval dominance in the region. China has already warned the United States to not interfere in their “territorial waters”. This can be seen as an empty threat due to the fact but they do not currently have the capability to pose a serious threat to the U.S. Navy. By obtaining similar technology, China will quickly close the gap on the United States, thus allowing them to expand their regional influence with increased ease.
The United States must immediately examine the state of American cyber security, and invest in strengthening it for both military and private corporations. By cutting off the information available to hostile hackers, the United States military will maintain their superiority over any foreign nation.