Lockheed Martin says thwarted 'tenacious' cyber attack
World's biggest aerospace company reports attack on information systems network; Israel has ordered F-35 fighter jets manufactured by Lockheed Martin, but delivery may be delayed or even canceled due to budgetary issues.
Lockheed Martin Corp., the U.S. government's top information technology provider, said on Saturday it had thwarted "a significant and tenacious attack" on its information systems network a week ago but was still working to restore employee access.
No customer, program or employee personal data was compromised thanks to "almost immediate" protective action taken after the attack was detected May 21, Jennifer Whitlow, a company spokeswoman, said in an emailed statement.
She said the company, the world's biggest aerospace company and the Pentagon's No. 1 supplier by sales, was working around the clock to restore employee access to the targeted network while maintaining the highest security level.
The U.S. Defense Department said in statement late Saturday night that it was working with Lockheed to determine the scope of the attack.
The incident's impact on the department is "minimal and we don't expect any adverse effect," Air Force Lieutenant Colonel April Cunningham said by email.
She declined to specify the nature of the impact, saying that as a matter of policy, the department does not comment on operational matters.
The Department of Homeland Security, or DHS, said that it and the Defense Department had offered to help curb the risk from the incident.
Lockheed is the maker of the F-16, F-22 and F-35 fighter jets as well as warships and other multibillion-dollar arms systems sold worldwide.
There was no word on what information may have been compromised in the attack nor where it may have originated. Military contractors' systems contain technical specifications on weapons under development as well as those currently in use.
The U.S. government has offered to help Lockheed analyze "available data in order to provide recommendations to mitigate further risk," Chris Ortman, a DHS official, said in an e-mailed reply to a query from Reuters.
A person with direct knowledge told Reuters on Friday that unknown attackers had broken into sensitive networks of Lockheed and several other U.S. military contractors.
Cyber intruders were reported in 2009 to have broken into computers holding data on Lockheed's projected 380 billion-plus dollar F-35 fighter program, the jet fighter of the future and the Pentagon's costliest arms purchase.
Earlier this month, senior members of the U.S. Senate Armed Services Committee instructed the Pentagon to come up with alternatives to Lockheed Martin's F-35, with the project facing massive cost overruns.
The plane has been selected as the future of the Israel Air Force, and for now there are no plans for an alternative if the American project is shelved.
Israel's Defense Ministry has so far ordered 20 F-35s, but the Israel Air Force has plans to outfit three of its operational squadrons with the aircraft, a total of between 60 and 75 planes.
The Israel Defense Forces is now concerned over the expected delay in delivery of the planes. A senior member of the IDF General Staff raised the possibility that to release older planes from service, the IAF lease from the Americans a squadron of used F-15s. However, in an interview with Haaretz three weeks ago, Defense Ministry Director General Udi Shani rejected the idea.
"On the last visit of Secretary of Defense Robert Gates in Israel a month ago, we were told that the delay would be less than what we had thought," he said.
Shani said the delay could allow Israel to outfit the planes with its own systems. "I am in favor of getting a plane with ... as many systems as possible made in Israel ... According to the original schedule we were told there was no time for that. We have teams in the United States now and after the holiday we'll hear their conclusions and I imagine dialogue will start with the Americans over a new schedule and changes."