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Chinese hackers have breached the USA's weather forecasting systems, disrupting emergency and disaster planning in a hack one US congressman described as a cover-up, the Washington Post reports.
The September hack was not discussed internally by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) until 20 October and even then authorities were not informed, sources familiar with the breach alleged.
The NOAA says it wasn't hacked but, in a statement, insisted "unscheduled maintenance" was behind the outage. The agency therefore made no mention of a breach to the Commerce Department until 4 November. That late report was in violation of policy and sparked an investigation.
The weather satellite data include forecasts and warnings vital to Americans and the U.S. economy, University of Georgia meteorologist J. Marshall Shepherd said in an e-mail.
"The Chinese hacking of our weather system illustrates that they also understand the value of this data and information," he said. "Every corner of our lives depends on weather information." NOAA said it performed unscheduled maintenance to mitigate the attacks, but all services have since been fully restored.
The agency wouldn't provide details on what was attacked, whether anything was removed, whether malicious software was let loose in the system or how long the maintenance took after the attack.