The federal government wants to know if hacked trade secrets are aiding the rise of an army of Chinese androids.
At least one China-backed cyberspy operation reportedly snared robotics research from QinetiQ, a Pentagon contractor and the supposed inspiration for gadget-maker “Q” in the James Bond movie franchise.
This week, the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission began looking for analysts to write an unclassified report on China’s current industrial and military robotics capabilities, including the origins of those capabilities.
The study will identify know-how and tools that “have likely been acquired by China through technology transfers or cyber penetrations,” according to a Jan. 13 federal business solicitation.
The commission also intends to gauge the chances China’s automation efforts could eclipse comparable Pentagon initiatives, including “Offset,” a Defense Department research initiative meant to “offset” technological advances made by adversaries.
There are concerns China might be gaining an unfair competitive advantage in the robotics race.
Between 2007 and 2009, attackers tied to the People’s Liberation Army allegedly hacked a QinetiQ specialist who worked on embedded software in microchips that control the company’s military robots, Bloomberg reported, citing investigations by security firms Terremark and HBGary. The Chinese military later showcased a bomb disposal robot in April 2012 that resembled QinetiQ’s Dragon Runner.
Now the United States is saying publicly it’s aiming to find out the technical specs of China’s humanoids. The forthcoming report will “identify key suppliers of components and chips,” as well as programming languages used in robotics research and development.
“To what extent do Chinese robotics…