“Computer spies” (sic) have broken into the Joint Strike Fighter project and made off with several terabytes of data, reports the Wall Street Journal.

This would be the same F-35 Lightning II project of which one of the major partners is the British Government, themselves not unfamiliar with losing important data. Though, to be fair, we tend to just leave it lying around or bung it unencrypted into the Royal Mail, rather than be so unsporting as to force people to have to bother stealing it.

But hang on – a few years ago, there was a bit of a hoo-hah about this very project. It transpired the Americans weren’t quite convinced the UK understood concepts of data security (well… durr), and thus had mild reservations about handing over the complete source code for the F-35’s software. The British, not letting anything past them, realised this meant that between a British pilot flicking an insouciant British finger onto a British bomb-release button in a British plane on a British mission, and that specific (British, obviously) bomb, there could conceivably be some dastardly Yankee code along the lines of:

if (bombReleaseTriggerDepressed) {
  switch (isBombGodFearingAmerican) {
    case (hellYesBlowThemAllToHell) {
    case (heckNoLimeyBastards) {
      errorMsg(insufficientPermission, escalateUACLevel);

Understandably ticked off, the British threatened to pull out of the project and… oh, I don’t know, build TSR.2 or something. In the end, some sort of fudge was reached whereby Blair could announce (Wikipedia again):

“Both governments agree that the UK will have the ability to successfully operate, upgrade, employ, and maintain the Joint Strike Fighter such that the UK retains operational sovereignty over the aircraft.”

…which is one of those odd phrasings that means less the more you think about it.

Ironic, then, that it turns out the easiest way of extracting the long-sought-after F-35 source code may have been to partner with the Chinese all along. Indeed, there are two possibilities here. If MI6 were being clever they could have just outsourced their industrial espionage, presumably at a huge saving to the British taxpayer.

Alternatively – and back to the Wall Street Journal —

“Foreign allies are helping develop the aircraft, which opens up other avenues of attack for spies online. At least one breach appears to have occurred in Turkey and another country that is a U.S. ally, according to people familiar with the matter.”

I think we all know which other country that’s likely to be.

Oh, arse. They got the code, then left it on a bus, didn’t they?