China Makes Climate Promises While Hacking US Weather Satellites

Just after President Obama announced a tentative pledge with China to fight global warming, reports have surfaced that Chinese hackers successfully breached the federal weather satellite network which holds data “vital to disaster planning, aviation, shipping and scores of other crucial uses,” reports The Washington Post.

In late September, hackers breached federal weather networks, the Post reported just hours after the White House announced its “historic” climate agreement with China. Data vital to U.S. planning and security had to be sealed off by cybersecurity teams, but federal officials did not notify the proper authorities of the attack until October 20th.

“Even then, [the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration] did not say its systems were compromised,” the Post reports. “Officials also said that the agency did not notify the proper authorities when it learned of the attack.”

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So who was behind the attack? NOAA has refused to disclose the source of the attack and whether or not it impacted classified data, but one federal lawmaker has laid the blame squarely on China.

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Virginia Republican Rep. Frank Wolf says NOAA told him that China was behind the attack on the U.S. weather network. Not only did NOAA not hide the source of the attack from the public, says Wolf, but they tried to cover up the attack.

“NOAA told me it was a hack and it was China,” Wolf told the Post, “and deliberately misleading the American public in its replies.”

“They had an obligation to tell the truth,” Wolf added. “They covered it up.”

NOAA publicly said it was undergoing “unscheduled maintenance” back in October when the attack likely happened. But they made no mention of computer hacks. The Commerce Department’s inspector general said he was not notified until last week about the hacking, adding that NOAA is required by law to notify the IG’s office within two days of discovery.

Chinese hackers were also blamed for hacking data for 800,000 U.S. Postal Service employees back in September.

NOAA said the outage caused by the Chinese hackers affected the accuracy of the National Weather Service’s long-range forecasts. The attack reportedly hit a web server connecting many NOAA computers.

The Posts was published just hours after the White House unveiled its agreement with China to cut carbon dioxide emissions to fight global warming. Obama pledged the U.S. to cut emissions 26 to 28 percent by 2025, while China made no pledge to cut emissions but vaguely promised to have emissions peak by 2030.

“We hope to encourage all major economies to be ambitious — all countries, developing and developed — to work across some of the old divides, so we can conclude a strong global climate agreement next year,” Obama said.

But while Obama touts his progress on galvanizing support for a global climate treaty, he should maybe press China on trying to hack U.S. government networks.


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