Feeds

Red faces as Pentagon leases Chinese satellite

It's ok, we've added 'additional transmission security'

Intelligent flash storage arrays

US lawmakers are up in arms after it emerged that the Pentagon has leased a Chinese commercial satellite to support non-classified communications with its African bases.

The details of the one-year, $10m contract were revealed at a House Armed Services Committee on Capitol Hill last week. The Apstar-7 satellite is owned and operated by APT Satellite Holdings, a Hong Kong-based firm which is itself owned by the Beijing-run China Satellite Communication Company.

Republican Mike Rogers, an outspoken critic of China and chair of the House Intelligence Committee which branded Huawei and ZTE national security risks last year, expressed deep concern at how the Pentagon deal had been done without any political input.

In a statement sent to Bloomberg he said the lease “exposes our military to the risk that China may seek to turn off our ‘eyes and ears’ at the time of their choosing”.

However, US military officials, while recognising that such decisions need to be taken with wider vetting from across the Deaprtment of Defense, appear to have few security concerns.

In another statement sent to the news wire, Pentagon spokeswoman Lieutenant Colonel Monica Matoush said the Defense Information Systems Agency and the Africa Command “made an informed risk assessment of operational security considerations and implemented appropriate transmission and communications security and information assurance measures”.

She added that “all signals to and through the Apstar-7 satellite are fully protected with additional transmission security”, although failed to clarify exactly what these were.

Although commercial satellites are thoughts to be used by US military on a fairly regular basis for low-level comms, perhaps more worrying for the States is that a Chinese satellite appears to have been the only option for the Pentagon in this instance.

It also appears to go, in spirit at least, against a recent spending bill which banned various government agencies from buying technology from companies “owned, operated or subsidised” by the People’s Republic of China.

It’s perhaps indicative of the relative economic strengths of the world’s two superpowers and their military budgets that the Pentagon was forced to do a deal with a country described last year as “the most threatening actor in cyberspace”.

While the US exposes itself to greater risk, China, meanwhile, is taking concrete steps to reduce its dependence on the West, with the continued development of its GPS alternative Beidou.

The system's 16 satellites currently provide a decent service only for the APAC region, although with more launches on the way, China plans it to be truly global by 2020. ®

Internet Security Threat Report 2014

More from The Register

next story
The 'fun-nification' of computer education – good idea?
Compulsory code schools, luvvies love it, but what about Maths and Physics?
Facebook, Apple: LADIES! Why not FREEZE your EGGS? It's on the company!
No biological clockwatching when you work in Silicon Valley
Lords take revenge on REVENGE PORN publishers
Jilted Johns and Jennies with busy fingers face two years inside
Yes, yes, Steve Jobs. Look what I'VE done for you lately – Tim Cook
New iPhone biz baron points to Apple's (his) greatest successes
Happiness economics is bollocks. Oh, UK.gov just adopted it? Er ...
Opportunity doesn't knock; it costs us instead
Ex-US Navy fighter pilot MIT prof: Drones beat humans - I should know
'Missy' Cummings on UAVs, smartcars and dying from boredom
Sysadmin with EBOLA? Gartner's issued advice to debug your biz
Start hoarding cleaning supplies, analyst firm says, and assume your team will scatter
Edward who? GCHQ boss dodges Snowden topic during last speech
UK spies would rather 'walk' than do 'mass surveillance'
prev story

Whitepapers

Forging a new future with identity relationship management
Learn about ForgeRock's next generation IRM platform and how it is designed to empower CEOS's and enterprises to engage with consumers.
Why and how to choose the right cloud vendor
The benefits of cloud-based storage in your processes. Eliminate onsite, disk-based backup and archiving in favor of cloud-based data protection.
Three 1TB solid state scorchers up for grabs
Big SSDs can be expensive but think big and think free because you could be the lucky winner of one of three 1TB Samsung SSD 840 EVO drives that we’re giving away worth over £300 apiece.
Reg Reader Research: SaaS based Email and Office Productivity Tools
Read this Reg reader report which provides advice and guidance for SMBs towards the use of SaaS based email and Office productivity tools.
Security for virtualized datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.