US sentences Chinese hacker for stealing aerospace secrets

Pierluigi Paganini July 15, 2016

US sentences the Chinese hacker involved in the theft of industrial secrets on the F-22 and F-35 fighter jets, C-17 transport aircraft and F-35 aircraft.

The Chinese national Su Bin (also known as Stephen Su and Stephen Subin), 50, has been sentenced to 46 months jail for intellectual property theft. The Chinese hacker admitted having had a crucial role in the theft of industrial secrets on the F-22 and F-35 fighter jetsC-17 transport aircraft and F-35 aircraft.

“Su Bin admitted to playing an important role in a conspiracy, originating in China, to illegally access sensitive military data, including data relating to military aircraft that are indispensable in keeping our military personnel safe,” said Assistant Attorney General John Carlin in March, when the Bin pled guilty .

“This plea sends a strong message that stealing from the United States and our companies has a significant cost; we can and will find these criminals and bring them to justice.”

Su Bin  had been charged in a 2014 indictment with hacking into the computer networks of US defense contractors, including the Boing. The hackers aimed to steal blueprints and intellectual property for the F-22 and F-35 fighter jets and C-17 transport aircraft. In January 2015, Edward Snowden revealed China stole designs for the US-built F-35 Fighter jet hacking computer systems at US Defense contractors, and provides details also a counter-intelligence operation run by the NSA.

According to Snowden, the US Intelligence was aware that Chinese cyber spies have stolen “many terabytes of data” about the design of Australia’s Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II JSF. The details of the operation are described in a set of top secret documents published by the Der Spiegel magazine.

Chinese hackers have allegedly stolen as much as 50 terabytes of data from the US Defense contractors, including the details of the fighter’s radar systems, engine schematics, “aft deck heating contour maps,” designs to cool exhaust gasses and the method the jet uses to track targets.

According to a US criminal complaint, in 2014 computers of Boeing and other military contractors have been hacked to steal intellectual property and trade secrets on transport aircraft. The attacks against Boeing likely occurred between Jan 14th and March 20th, 2010. Hackers compromised Boeing computer networks for a year for cyber espionage, they have also compromised systems of the principal US Defense contractors.

Su Bin was a Chinese businessman residing in Canada, according to prosecutors he supported two countrymen in the organization of cyber attacks on Boeing systems.

In one of the emails sent by Bin, the man explained that stolen data would help China “stand easily on the giant’s shoulders”.

Chinese hacker admitted hacking US Defense contractors

The National Security Assistant Attorney General John P. Carlin announced the sentencing with Central District of California attorney Eileen M. Decker launching a clear message to Chinese authorities.

“Su Bin’s sentence is a just punishment for his admitted role in a conspiracy with hackers from the People’s Liberation Army Air Force to illegally access and steal sensitive US military information,” Carlin says.

“Bin assisted the Chinese military hackers in their efforts to illegally access and steal designs for cutting-edge military aircraft that are indispensable to our national defense.”

“This prison sentence reinforces our commitment to ensure that hackers, regardless of state affiliation, are held accountable for their criminal conduct.”

The Chinese hacker admitted that stolen data were sent to the Chinese People’s Liberation Army General Staff Headquarters.

China and the US have regularly made mutual accusations about cyber espionage activities conducted by their spies. The US announced the intention to apply sanctions to China and Russia in response to recent cyber attacks.

The Chinese Government has always denied its role in cyber espionage activities, in 2015 the Chinese authorities arrested hackers accused of breaking into the Office of Personnel Management (OPM).

“The Chinese government recently arrested a handful of hackers it says were connected to the breach of Office of Personnel Management’s database earlier this year, a mammoth break-in that exposed the records of more than 22 million current and former federal employees.” states The Washington Post. “The arrests took place shortly before a state visit in late September by President Xi Jinping, and U.S. officials say they appear to have been carried out in an effort to lessen tensions with Washington.”

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Pierluigi Paganini

Security Affairs –  (Chinese hacker, Su Bin)

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