Chinese aerospace executive charged with hacking for China

Su Bin, the head of an aviation company, has pleaded guilty to conspiring with Chinese officials to steal information from US military defence contractors

The PLA are infamous for attempting to steal intellectual property (credit: Kremlin.ru via wikimedia commons)
The PLA are infamous for attempting to steal intellectual property (credit: Kremlin.ru via wikimedia commons)

The Chinese head of a yet-unnamed aviation company has been sentenced to four years in prison for hacking into rival defence contractors in an effort to acquire military defence intelligence.

Su Bin, 51, also known as Stephen Subin, admitted to a California court that from October 2008 to March 2014 he had engaged in a years-long conspiracy with officers of the People's Liberation Army (PLA) to “illegally access and steal sensitive US military information,” according to the US Department of Justice (DOJ).

Su pleaded guilty to one count of attempting to gain unauthorised access to a protected computer and violating the Arms Export Control Act.

“Over the course of years, this defendant sought to undermine the national security of the United States by seeking out information that would benefit a foreign government and providing that country with information it had never before seen,” elaborated US Attorney Eileen Decker.

Su was arrested in Canada in July 2014 and waived extradition in order to be transported back to the US in February 2016.

Su apparently chose targets which PLA officers would then hack into and steal information from, including aerospace giant Boeing. Su would be given directory listings of files and folders by his co-conspirators. From there, Su would further direct them to the files and folders might contain valuable information and translate the stolen info from English into Chinese.

The targeted information pertained to military defence technology including F-22 fighter jets and the C-17 transport plane.

Su told the court that he was in it for the money and intended to sell the information that the PLA acquired while working with him.

“Su Bin's indictment and sentencing is a significant step in the US government's prosecution of intellectual property theft, but doesn't itself represent a landmark case”, William Glass, threat intelligence analyst at FireEye, told SCMagazineUK.com.

Su Bin is not a military officer, and so is likely to be treated with greater leniency.

Glass concluded, “We continue to wait and see how intellectual property tensions between the United States and China will play out. China's record on protecting intellectual property is poor and is unlikely to improve without major policy changes in Beijing.”