Twenty years ago ‘hack’ would most likely have been taken to mean an uninspiring journalist. Today pretty much everyone thinks about the word more in terms of stealing information from computer networks. Each week there seems to be another hacking revelation. The latest involves an alleged incursion into the US defence programme’s F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, following the publication by German magazine Der Spiegel of documents made available by Edward Snowden, the former US intelligence contractor. They indicate that US government officials believe Chinese snoopers had hacked “many terabytes of data” on the F-35 and that some design elements of China’s own stealth jet resemble the American model (Reuters says that, at $399 billion, the F-35 is the world’s most expensive weapons programme).
A Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson soon denied the hacking claims, retorting that “the so-called evidence that has been used to launch groundless accusations against China is completely unjustified”.
China unveiled its own advanced jet, the J-31, last year. AVIC, the company making the aircraft, has also made bold claims about its performance. “When it [the J-31] takes to the sky, it could definitely take down the F-35. It’s a certainty,” AVIC’s president told state TV in December.
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