Chinese hackers have managed to break into US weather systems and disrupt satellite transmission, leading to US Rep. Frank Wolf scolding the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) for covering up the incident.
Four websites belonging to NOAA were allegedly broken into by cybercriminals from China in October 2014, as reported by the Washington Post. The hack, it is claimed, caused not only disruption to satellite feeds which carried weather data and high-profile websites, but forced the US federal agency to shut down services — in order to stop the cybercriminals before they caused additional damage.
NOAA satellite data is used for generating weather models, predicting and planning for natural disasters, and issuing warnings and advisories across the world.
The publication says that in October, the National Ice Center was taken offline for over a week, and satellite-based weather data was also unavailable — which is crucial for applications in disaster planning, shipping and aviation, to name but a few.
At the time, US officials said the temporary closure was due to "unscheduled maintenance."
Three officials familiar with the attack said officials did not notify the proper authorities at the time of the intrusion. However, NOAA spokesman Scott Smullen acknowledged the hack this week, saying "incident response began immediately."
While systems are now fully operational, NOAA confirmed to Congressman Frank Wolf that China was behind the attack. Wolf told the Post "NOAA told me it was a hack and it was China," and scolded the agency for "deliberately misleading the American public" by not disclosing the intrusion transparently. However, it remains unknown whether classified and sensitive information was accessed or stolen. In addition, Wolf told the publication:
They had an obligation to tell the truth. They covered it up.
On Monday, hackers breached US Postal Service networks, leading to the data of over 800,000 employees being compromised. Although government officials have not commented on who was responsible, hackers associated with the Chinese government are believed to be at fault.