Lockheed Martin Corp, the largest arms supplier for the United States’ military, revealed last Monday that hackers targeting its network has grown substantially in number and sophistication. It also said that it has initiated some measures to warn its own suppliers about the growing threat.
The company’s vice president and chief information security officer, Chandra McMahon, cited the fact that 20 percent of the threats targeting the company’s infrastructure were called “advanced persistent threats”–extended hacking attacks sponsored by nation states or other groups meant to steal or disrupt Lockheed’s operations.
“The number of campaigns has increased dramatically over the last several years,” McMahon said in a news conference. “The pace has picked up.”
McMahon said that the attackers’ tactics and techniques have become sophisticated, while at the same time targeting the suppliers of Lockheed to gain access to Lockheed’s fortified networks.
Some U.S. officials have been calling for more measures against cyber threats that can cripple the U.S. financial system and other institutions during the past months. These same officials warned that the hackers have gradually developed the ability to threaten the national power grids and other government systems.
Lockheed did not specifically mentioned Iran as the source of the attacks. The Middle East country has been recently linked to some of the recent high-profile denial-of-service attacks against U.S. banks.
Lockheed’s warning was confirmed by Rohan Amin, the company’s program director for the Pentagon’s Cyber Crime Center (DC3), by saying that internal analysis have shown that the instances of campaigns by hackers had ballooned, with almost each of them linked to each other.
Lockheed has become the recent administrator of the military cyber center, which was previously run by General Dynamics Corp.
Being the number technology provider to the biggest military in the world, Lockheed had been in the business of securing data on computer networks being used by both military and civilian agencies. Lockheed is also selling its wares including cybersecurity technology to other commercial firms and itw own suppliers, as well as foreign governments.
The main weakness though is not from Lockheed itself but from its suppliers, which tally a total of annual sales of $47 billion. “Suppliers are still a huge problem,” noted Charlie Croom, the company’s vice president of cybersecurity solutions.
Croom said that although cybersecurity is a sensitive niche for Lockheed, it is difficult to determine how much business it makes as network security is just one of the many things it provides to the U.S. government.
He said that about 5 to 8 percent of his company’s revenue come from the information technology sector. Lockheed revealed that division generated about $9.4 billion in sales last year.
Chandra McMahon cited some “very successful” hacking incidents against a number of the company’s suppliers. She said Lockheed is trying to reach out to the companies hit to improve their defensive capabilities against future attacks.
The high-profile security breach last May 2011 was due to a failure on Lockheed’s suppliers RSA and another unidentified company.
“The adversary was able to get information from RSA and then they were also able to steal information from another supplier of ours, and they were able to put those two pieces of information together and launch an attack on us,” McMahon added.
She further said that Lockheed had been following the activities of the perpetrator of the said attack, and was therefore able to prevent a security breach on its own system.
She noted that sharing of key information with other companies in the defense sector is an important step to prevent further attacks in the future.
“It’s just one example of how the adversary has been very significant and tenacious and has really been targeting the defense industrial base,” she added.