VIENNA, July 29 Three Israeli defence
contractors behind the Iron Dome missile shield and related
systems were themselves robbed of hundreds of documents by
hackers linked to the Chinese government starting in 2011,
according to an independent U.S. security researcher.
Krebs on Security, a blog operated by former Washington Post
security reporter Brian Krebs, reported on Tuesday that Iron
Dome's manufacturers were infiltrated by the state-sponsored
Comment Crew hacking group, believed to operate out of China.
The targets of these online attacks were top military
contractors Elisra Group, Israel Aerospace Industries
, and Rafael Advanced Defense Systems, who were responsible for
constructing the system which now partially insulates Israel
from rocket barrages fired from the Gaza Strip.
Israeli and U.S. officials have said Iron Dome systems are
responsible for shooting down more than 90 percent of the
rockets they have engaged, while ignoring missiles on a
trajectory to fall wide. That accounts for about a fifth of the
rockets Israel has said militants have fired into the country
during the latest crisis.
Two of the companies named declined to comment on the story
or confirm whether the incidents, said to have occurred
repeatedly throughout 2011 and 2012, indeed took place.
An official at the third company, Rafael Advanced Defense
Systems, who declined to be identified by name, said of the
report: "Rafael does not recall such an incident. Rafael's
databases, including its air defense databases, are extremely
A former senior Israeli military official said assertions
these key defence contractors were hacked would fit with a
pattern of military and industrial espionage around the globe.
"First, this is old stuff from about two years ago", said
Uzi Rubin, a former head of missile defence at Israel's Defence
Ministry and now head of the Rubicon consultancy firm. "The
Chinese have been doing that to all defence contractors in the
West, so if this really happened we are not alone."
Krebs said details of the attacks were provided by Columbia,
Md.-based network intelligence firm Cyber Engineering Services
Inc. (CyberESI) which traced the intrusions and identified more
than 700 stolen emails, documents and manuals pertaining to
development of the Iron Dome project and other missile projects.
Columbia, Md.-based CyberESI and its chief executive, Joseph
Drissel, did not immediately respond to interview requests.
Drissel was quoted by Krebs as saying that stolen materials
included specifications for the Arrow III system and other
ballistic missile defences, much of the technology for which was
developed by Boeing and other contractors for use in U.S.
Rubin speculated that if the purpose of the Comment Crew
hacking group was to steal the plans for the missile system, the
likelihood was that it was for China to obtain technology on the
cheap rather than in order to resell it to other nations.
"If the Chinese really did it, maybe we shall see a Chinese
Iron Dome in the future," he told Reuters. "It is said that
imitation is the sincerest form of a compliment."
Chinese officials were not immediately available for
Allegations of hacking and other espionage have also
strained ties between China and the United States, with Beijing
denying last year that it had set up a special military unit to
conduct such activity.
The United States recently charged five Chinese military
officers, accusing them of hacking into American companies to
steal trade secrets. China retaliated by shutting down a
bilateral working group on cyber security.
(Reporting by Dan Williams in Jerusalem and Eric Auchard in
Vienna, Editing by Angus MacSwan)