According to cybersecurity expert Justin Harvey "90 percent of U.S. companies are not equipped to deal with cyber espionage.” Harvey, who is the chief security officer for U.S Government contractor Fidelis Cybersecurity, says companies are investing in security tools but not in the people who have expertise to operate them effectively.
“They’re buying these tools, but they’re not investing a ton in the people. Whenever a company is attacked, they typically call Fidelis or similar cybersecurity firms to consult because they don’t have employees with the training or experience to assess the breach." he said.
“I think the defense industrial base and financial services industry are the best-protected,” he said when asked to comment on theories that China's new J-31 fighter bears uncanny resemblance to its U.S rival the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, which could be the result of a cyber breach.
Back in 2009, China was suspected of stealing the F-35's design data although U.S. officials claim no classified information was stolen in that breach. In 2011 news broke that China was building the J-31, a multirole stealth fighter jet similar to the F-35, that could attack targets in the air and on the ground. This led to suspicions that U.S. officials had not been telling the complete story of the breach. The J-31 took to the air in tests in 2012.
Although the Pentagon has been working with defense companies for several years to beef up its cybersecurity Harvey says there is a huge gap in security talent within these firms, something he said the Pentagon has to look at seriously.
Although the similarity between the J-35 and the F-35 military is remarkable, military experts say it's not the looks but "what's under the hood and embedded in the skin" that really matters. They say the U.S. has the advantage of more advanced computer software, sensors, engine technology and stealth coating.
However Harvey and other cybersecurity experts say that cyber espionage allows China to save billions of dollars on the nuts and bolts military hardware research and development. They say this means that although the Chinese jet fighters may be inferior to their American counterparts, not having to do the early research gave the Chinese time to focus on improvements and upgrades.
Peter Singer, a strategist and senior fellow at New America says maintaining a future competitive edge "will be incredibly difficult because we’ll have paid the R&D for our competitors."