A two-day outage of the U.S. government’s weather tracking and prediction system in September was actually caused by Chinese based hackers, and forced officials to cut off “data vital to disaster planning, aviation, shipping and scores of other crucial uses,” a report out Wednesday reveals.
Just two days after the U.S. Postal Service revealed a China-attributed hack compromising the data of hundreds of thousands of employees in September, the Washington Post reports the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) suffered an attack the same month.
Hackers reportedly targeted NOAA’s web server and compromised four websites responsible for processing and coordinating satellite images and data used to track weather patterns and other information. Upon discovering the breach, cybersecurity teams were forced to lock down the system and cut off access to the data for two days.
NOAA previously attributed the downtime to “unscheduled maintenance” and is now taking heat for not acknowledging the breach until Oct. 20. The agency did not tell the Post where they believed the attack originated, but Virginia Republican Rep. Frank Wolf told the publication NOAA acknowledged the Chinese connection to him.
“NOAA told me it was a hack and it was China,” Wolf said while accusing the agency of “deliberately misleading the American public in its replies.”
The agency did not disclose whether any classified information was compromised in the breach.
Data from NOOA is relied on for a number of industries to protect activities from weather and other environmental factors. Delta Airlines was one such company affected by the network shutdown, but was able to gather enough data internally to safeguard operations, according to the report.
Other uses for crucial NOAA data include shipping, fishing, disaster planning and recovery.