Top secret plans for a Lancashire-built fighter jet have been hacked by Chinese spies, it has been revealed.
A senior security figure has revealed computers used by workers at BAE Systems for its F-35 fighter jet programme were hacked to steal details about the design and systems of the aircraft.
The company’s base at Samlesbury, near Preston, is the major manufacturing hub for its part of the F-35 manufacturing, building the aft fuselage, vertical and horizontal tails for the jet, which is assembled in the United States.
BAE declined to comment on the attack which has sparked fears the radar developed for the jet could have been compromised.
In a statement, BAE said: “We do not comment on allegations of cyber attacks against the company. BAE Systems’ own cycber security capability can detect, prevent and rectify such attacks.”
A source told the Sunday Times that an unnamed senior BAE executive had spoken at a private dinner of security experts that its systems had come under attack from Chinese hackers for 18 months.
It is understood the attacks had taken place in recent years. A report by the UK Office of Cyber Crime and Detica, the security arm of BAE Systems, last year showed cyber crime cost the UK economy £27bn every year. Detica managing director Martin Sutherland said that business was bearing more than three-quarters of the cost.
He urged the Government to “mobilise” itself to tackle the growing threat.
The Sunday Times quoted the Chinese embassy saying the allegation was “baseless” and said China condemned all forms of online crime.