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
Doctor Who's Flatline: Cool monsters, yes, but utterly limp subplots
We know what the Doctor does, stop going on about it already
Facebook, Apple: LADIES! Why not FREEZE your EGGS? It's on the company!
No biological clockwatching when you work in Silicon Valley
'Cowardly, venomous trolls' threatened with TWO-YEAR sentences for menacing posts
UK government: 'Taking a stand against a baying cyber-mob'
Happiness economics is bollocks. Oh, UK.gov just adopted it? Er ...
Opportunity doesn't knock; it costs us instead
Arab States make play for greater government control of the internet
Nerds told to get lost in last-minute power grab bid at UN meeting
Zippy one-liners, broken promises: Doctor Who on the Orient Express
Series finally hits stride, but Clara's U-turn is baffling
Don't bother telling people if you lose their data, say Euro bods
You read that right – with the proviso that it's encrypted
Apple SILENCES Bose, YANKS headphones from stores
The, er, Beats go on after noise-cancelling spat
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 cloud backup?
Combining the latest advancements in disk-based backup with secure, integrated, cloud technologies offer organizations fast and assured recovery of their critical enterprise data.
Win a year’s supply of chocolate
There is no techie angle to this competition so we're not going to pretend there is, but everyone loves chocolate so who cares.
High Performance for All
While HPC is not new, it has traditionally been seen as a specialist area – is it now geared up to meet more mainstream requirements?
Intelligent flash storage arrays
Tegile Intelligent Storage Arrays with IntelliFlash helps IT boost storage utilization and effciency while delivering unmatched storage savings and performance.