Feeds

Red faces as Pentagon leases Chinese satellite

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

Providing a secure and efficient Helpdesk

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. ®

Reducing the cost and complexity of web vulnerability management

More from The Register

next story
Phones 4u slips into administration after EE cuts ties with Brit mobe retailer
More than 5,500 jobs could be axed if rescue mission fails
JINGS! Microsoft Bing called Scots indyref RIGHT!
Redmond sporran metrics get one in the ten ring
Driving with an Apple Watch could land you with a £100 FINE
Bad news for tech-addicted fanbois behind the wheel
Murdoch to Europe: Inflict MORE PAIN on Google, please
'Platform for piracy' must be punished, or it'll kill us in FIVE YEARS
Phones 4u website DIES as wounded mobe retailer struggles to stay above water
Founder blames 'ruthless network partners' for implosion
Found inside ISIS terror chap's laptop: CELINE DION tunes
REPORT: Stash of terrorist material found in Syria Dell box
Sony says year's losses will be FOUR TIMES DEEPER than thought
Losses of more than $2 BILLION loom over troubled Japanese corp
prev story

Whitepapers

Providing a secure and efficient Helpdesk
A single remote control platform for user support is be key to providing an efficient helpdesk. Retain full control over the way in which screen and keystroke data is transmitted.
WIN a very cool portable ZX Spectrum
Win a one-off portable Spectrum built by legendary hardware hacker Ben Heck
Saudi Petroleum chooses Tegile storage solution
A storage solution that addresses company growth and performance for business-critical applications of caseware archive and search along with other key operational systems.
Protecting users from Firesheep and other Sidejacking attacks with SSL
Discussing the vulnerabilities inherent in Wi-Fi networks, and how using TLS/SSL for your entire site will assure security.
Security for virtualized datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.