Lockheed Mum on Breach, but Israeli Experts Worried

The largest weapons supplier in the U.S. discerns that there had been a systematic attempt to attack its information network.

Israeli security sources say they have yet to receive clarifications from Lockheed Martin concerning possible information breaches connected to weapons systems supplied by the company to the Israel Defense Forces.

In parallel, high tech professionals in Israel are concerned that there have been comparable information breaches of sensitive organizations and security firms in Israel.

kafr dan - Reuters - May 30 2011

Lockheed Martin, the largest weapons supplier in the U.S., which produces the F-16, F-35 and F-22 fighter planes, initially refused yesterday to respond directly to a series of reports in U.S. media about a possible breach of the company's information system.

Yet as reports mounted throughout the day, the company was compelled to issue a detailed statement saying that on Saturday, the firm discerned that there had been a systematic attempt to attack its information network.

The statement insisted that the company's information security department identified the attack "almost immediately," and took steps necessary to secure its information system, before any harm was caused to it.

The company did not detail how the attack came about, but reports in the U.S. suggested that it involved the use of secret passwords that were deciphered in attacks launched a few months ago on RSA Security computers. The attackers were able to create duplicates to SecurlD keys, used by the RSA Security division.

No information has circulated concerning the identities of those who perpetrated these apparent security breaches. Experts believe that computer hacking at this high level can be carried out only with knowledge and resources available in countries the size of Russia or China.

Two years ago, there were reports that Chinese hackers had tried to breach information connected to Lockheed Martin's F-35 planes.

"It's hard to know whether there's cause to be worried. I don't know what the hackers found," said Maj. Gen. (res. ) Prof. Yitzhak Ben Yisrael, formerly head of the weapons systems research and development authority at the defense ministry, and today the head of a task force of experts who have drafted recommendations for the prime minister in the area of cyber warfare.

"Lockheed said that they [the attackers] were not able to penetrate into their information systems, but we aren't talking about high school hackers, but rather experts who might have the ability to cover their tracks. It could be that they have been in Lockheed's system for months, prior to being caught. Under such a scenario, I'd be worried about the possibility that they might have made internal changes in the F-35."

A senior Israeli defense official who deals with protecting security information said he tends not to believe Lockheed straight away. "It took them time to admit that there had been a breach; and if there hasn't been information theft, then why do they want to get the U.S. government involved in this?"

Boaz Dolev, a consultant in security information protection, indicated that Israel should be worried not only about breaches at Lockheed Martin, but also about the fact that such attacks and breaches could apply to Israeli companies.

"Many serious Israeli companies used the same information protection systems" that are operated by Lockheed Martin, he claimed.