Chinese hackers allegedly broke into U.S. weather systems in September, and consequently caused federal cyber-security forces to block sensitive data needed for crucial uses including disaster planning and aviation, officials told The Washington Post.
The Chinese government continues to deny it engages in cyber-theft, despite sources confirming with The Post China's involvement in the recent attack.
The U.S. military, commercial airlines, disaster planners, and shipping companies depend on the National Weather Service, which is part of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), for data. The interference occurred in late September, but authorities didn't reveal they experienced a problem until Oct. 20, according to The Post.
Data in the systems contains commercial interests, public-safety issues of American citizens, and technical data, Mary Pat Flaherty, one of the reporters who broke the story, told msnbc.
"The task of just seeing if you can pierce a U.S. system is enough to try it," she said.
Earlier this week, The Post also reported that Chinese government hackers were suspected of breaking into the U.S. Postal Service's computer networks and stealing the personal data belonging to hundreds of thousands of employees, retirees, and customers. The agency on Monday confirmed the cyber-attack, which also was discovered in September.
The most recent cyber-attack news came as President Barack Obama returns to Washington following his trip to Beijing for the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit. There, Obama and Chinese President Xi Jinping agreed on a groundbreaking climate deal to reduce carbon emissions and tackle the growing crisis of global climate change. The pact includes a first-ever commitment by the Asian country to stop its emissions from increasing entirely after 2030.
Their discussions marked a major milestone for U.S.-China relations, including the first time the two leaders met on Chinese soil. The Obama administration has made climate change a key priority over the last six years.