Top Pentagon contractors have been bleeding secrets for years as a result of penetrations of their computer networks, current and former national security officials say.
The Defense Department, which runs its own worldwide eavesdropping, spying and code-cracking systems, says more than 100 foreign intelligence organizations have been trying to break into U.S. networks. Some of the perpetrators "already have the capacity to disrupt" U.S. information infrastructure, Deputy Defense Secretary William Lynn, who is leading remedial efforts, wrote last fall in the journal Foreign Affairs.
Joel Brenner, the National Counterintelligence executive from 2006 to 2009, said most if not all of the big defense contractors' networks had been pierced.
"This has been happening since the late '90s," he told Reuters Tuesday. He identified the main threats as coming from Russia, China and Iran.
"They're after our weapons systems and R&D," or research and development, said Brenner, now with the law firm of Cooley LLP in Washington.
Lockheed Martin Corp, the Pentagon's No. 1 supplier by sales, said on Saturday that it had thwarted "a significant and tenacious" attack on its information systems network that it detected May 21. Ten days later, the company says its still working to restore full employee access to the network while maintaining the highest level of security.