Another day, another cyber-security concern. In today’s episode, a used computer bought on eBay contained highly sensitive details of a key U.S. missile system designed by defense contractor Lockheed Martin. Among the data found on the legally purchased computer were details of test launch procedures, blueprints of facilities and sensitive personal data on Lockheed Martin employees.
The discarded data is for a system known as the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD), a U.S. Army project to shoot down ballistic missiles using a hit-to-kill approach. The project began under former president Ronald Reagan’s “Star Wars” Strategic Defense Initiative in the 1980s. The computer has been turned over to the FBI.
According to the Guardian, the computer was purchased as part of a joint research project by three universities to document the risks of carelessly discarded computer equipment. The schools involved in the research include Longwood University in the United States, Glamorgan University in the United Kingdom and Edith Cowan University in Australia.
The Department of Defense’s standards for disposal of used computers requires the hard drives be wiped clean.
“From the point of view of espionage, knowing who is working on a project is tremendously useful,” Peter Zimmerman, emeritus professor of science and security at the Department of War Studies at London’s King’s College, told the Guardian. Glenn Dardick, assistant professor of information systems at Longwood University in Virginia, who helped analyze the data on the computer, added to the newspaper, “If this is out there, then it does beg the question: what else is out there?”
Lockheed Martin declined to comment on the issue.