Chinese hackers gained access to the government's top-secret plan to buy the U.S.-made Global Hawk reconnaissance drone in June 2010, it emerged Sunday.
"We've had a report from a government official that China launched a hacking attack on the Defense Ministry's computer system and accessed confidential information about the ministry's plan" to buy the drone, a spokesman for Democratic Party lawmaker Shin Hak-yong of the National Assembly's Defense Committee said. "The government hasn't raised this issue with China yet and is apparently still mulling how to handle it."
Seoul asked Washington to sell the Global Hawk in 2005, and in 2009 the U.S. Defense Department agreed. Budget problems delayed the purchase, but after North Korea sank the Navy corvette Cheonan last year, the government earmarked W45.2 billion (US$1=W1,116) from the 2011 budget to start negotiations amid growing fears of further North Korean provocations.
Japan also wants to buy the Global Hawk. China is apparently collecting intelligence for fear of growing surveillance power by South Korea, the U.S., and Japan.
The high-altitude unmanned aerial vehicle can stay in the stratosphere over 18 km above the earth for more than 30 hours at a time. It has a surveillance range of 200 km beyond the Northern Limit Line, the de facto sea border with North Korea.
Meanwhile, there have been more than 20,000 hacking attempts on the government computer systems every year, most of them from China, according to data the Ministry of Public Administration and Security submitted to Grand National Party lawmaker Lee Sung-hun.
Of 21,899 hack attempts last year, 8,183 came from China, followed by the U.S. (1,032 attempts), Brazil (282), Thailand (255), Hong Kong (239), and Japan (232). In 2007 there were 30,287 attempts, 36,907 in 2008, 20,176 in 2009, and 21,899 from January to August 2010.