US charges three over high-tech industrial espionage

By Graeme Burton
14 Jul 2014 View Comments

The US Justice Department has charged three people with industrial espionage, claiming that they stole key technology from US high-tech defence contractors.

Those charged include Su Bin, the owner of a Chinese aviation technology company, and two co-conspirators. The US claims that the three worked between 2009 and 2013 to break into the networks of Boeing and Lockheed Martin, among others, to steal sensitive information about the C-17 transport plane and the F-22 and F-35 fighter jets.

Further reading

The UK is purchasing the B-variant of the F-35 for its new aircraft carriers, although the vertical take-off and landing aircraft has been dogged with technical problems delaying its entry into service. However, it has also been the target of repeated industrial espionage efforts - particularly by hackers.

According to the Wall Street Journal, Su Bin was working for himself and selling the secrets to entities in China. He now faces extradition from Canada, where he was operating, to the US.

The WSJ suggests that China's "hacking-industrial complex" is so vast and sprawling that it can be difficult, even when individuals and organisations are identified, to work out who is working for who.

"The complaint [by the US Justice Department] describes one of the unnamed hackers as the other's supervisor in various organizations. When picking targets, the duo saw 'military technology intelligence as a main focus', according to an internal report cited in the complaint," claims the WSJ.

It continues: "The complaint doesn't say how the two alleged hackers came to know Mr Su. The alleged hackers gave Mr Su a 1,467-page list of the Boeing files they could steal, according to the complaint. Mr Su would then tell them which files he thought would interest state-owned aerospace firms in China.

"For instance, Mr Su apparently wasn't interested in the 'C-17 Demilitarization Plan' draft but wanted the 'C-17 Hangar Requirements', according to the complaint."

State-sponsored hacking is poorly paid, according to the WSJ, encouraging the hackers to take on projects on the side.

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