Chinese Hackers Breached US Weather Systems and Satellite Network

Chinese hackers intruded US National Weather Service network disrupting crucial public services such as commercial airlines, disaster warning systems and shipping industry who rely heavily on informational from NOAA to run their business. As expected China has denied any involvement in the attack and taunted US to up her game.

Alleged Chinese hackers intruded US National weather Service network causing days of outage and disrupting other crucial public services such commercial airlines, disaster planning and shipping industry who depend on environmental intelligence from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) to run their business.

The breach occurred in September but went unreported for weeks until last Wednesday when NOAA spokesman Scott Smullen owned up to the attack. He revealed that four of NOAA’s sites were breached causing a two-day outage that skewed the accuracy of the Agency’s weather forecasting models.

Smullen further assured the public that all weather systems were up an again and accurate forecasts were being sent to Public. He declined to divulge further details on the intrusion citing ongoing investigations into the attack, but sources close to matter indicate that a highly fortified web server that connects to thousands of NOAA’s computer was hit hard during the attack.

In October, NOAA’s National Ice center pulled down its website allegedly for “unscheduled maintenance” without saying the system had been hacked. To make matters worse, NOAA did not report the hack to other top US government officials as required by law, something experts have termed as the largest cover up in the Agency’s history. The National Ice Center works with the US Navy and the Coast Guard to give navigation intelligence to US ships.

The extent and scope of the breach is not yet clear, but given the sensitivity of information disseminated by NOAA, the Agency was morally obliged to inform the public that its systems had been breached with a possibility of compromised intelligence. “They had an obligation to tell the truth,” Congressman Frank R. Wolf told the Washington Post. “They covered it up.” Information from NOAA’s satellites is used to generate weather forecasting models, and give weather advice and warning to US army, public and the world to a large extent.

NOAA is yet to officially confirm the origin of the attacks but sources privy to the ongoing investigation pointed fingers at China, something that never sat well at the Chinese consulate in US. “Cyberattacks is quite common in today’s cyberspace…Jumping to conclusions on its origin without hard evidence is not responsible at all,” said Geng Shuang of the Chinese Embassy, adding that US should stop hurling “unfounded accusations” at Beijing after every network scratch.

The Agency had earlier confirmed to Congressman Wolf that China was behind the attack, but declined to comment to further inquiries from other sources. “NOAA told me it was a hack and it was China,” said Wolf, who also took jabs at NOAA for the Cover up and “deliberately misleading the American public” for months.

Meanwhile, NOAA’s cover up won’t go unchallenged according to the Inspector general of the Commerce Department who received news of the attack in November. “We’re in the process of looking into the matter, including why NOAA did not comply with the requirements to notify law enforcement about the incident,” said Todd Zinser, adding that NOAA was legally obliged to notify his office within two days of discovering the breach.

In the recent past, federal agencies and high-profile organizations have been at the receiving end of highly sophisticated state-backed attacks allegedly from China and Russia. “The Chinese are stealing us blind,” says Wolf referring to recent attacks on America’s cyberspace. Beijing has repeatedly denied its involvement with cyber-attacks on US including the hack at US postmaster general that was reported last Monday.

Russia has also shared the blame for America’s misery, starting with breach at JPMorgan and other financial institution that almost crumbled US financial system. Russian state backed hackers were also accused of hacking Whitehouse unclassified networks and disrupting business at the Oval office last month. Putin’s administration has rubbished all acquisitions from Washington.

Top/Featured Image: By Strongbad1982/Ermanon – Licensed under Public domain via Wikimedia Commons –

Pierluigi Paganini Cyber Security Analyst; Member, European Union Agency for Network and Information Security Threat Landscape Stakeholder Group; Founder, Security Affairs Blog. Co-author of The Deep Dark Web: The Hidden World.
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