US charges Chinese businessman with hacking military data

As the cybersecurity row between the US and China escalates, another Chinese man has been arrested on hacking and data theft charges.

credit cnet
Credit: CNET

A Chinese executive has been arrested and charged on the grounds of stealing military data.

The US Department of Justice (DoJ) has arrested and charged a Chinese national for working with hackers in China to infiltrate US company networks and steal valuable data concerning military technology. The Chinese businessman, Su Bin, is owner of Chinese aviation technology company Lode Tech and is accused of working with two co-conspirators in China in order to break into computers at Boeing and other US defense contractors, according to an unsealed 50-page complaint released on Friday.

According to US prosectors, the scheme took place between 2009 and 2013. The trio allegedly stole 65 gigabytes of sensitive information relating to military technology including fighter jets such as the F-22 and F-35, as well as Boeing's military cargo aircraft C-17. This data was allegedly stolen in order to pass it to entities in China, the Wall Street Journal reports.

The complaint claims that Su instructed the two hackers on which firms to target, and sometimes attempted to sell the stolen information. According to a report cited within the complaint, military technology intelligence was the "main focus" of breaking into US systems.

Su was arrested in Canada on June 28 and now faces extradition proceedings brought forward by the Justice Department.

A Justice Department spokesman told the publication:

We remain deeply concerned about cyber-enabled theft of sensitive information. The conspirators are alleged to have accessed the computer networks of US defense contractors without authorization and stolen data related to military aircraft and weapons systems.

Boeing said it was informed of the alleged data breaches two years ago, and has cooperated with US authorities since. Lockheed, manufacturer of the F-22 and F-35, is also working with US government agencies.

In a statement, Boeing said:

We appreciate that the government brought its concerns about a potential compromise of our protected computer systems to our attention. Our cooperation with the government's investigation demonstrates the company's commitment to holding accountable individuals who perpetrate economic espionage or trade secret theft against US companies.

Tensions continue to rise between the US and China, with each side blaming the other for cyberespionage and viewing themselves as a victim. China often cites the NSA scandal, which revealed widespread surveillance by US intelligence of not only US citizens but firms and governments worldwide — including Chinese companies — whereas the US has continually accused China of using cyberwarfare to steal confidential information, trade secrets and data of national security importance.

Last week, state broadcaster China Central Television declared Apple's iPhone a " national security concern " due to location-tracking technology; citing researchers who said GPS features could be used to gain knowledge of Chinese concerns and even "state secrets."

The declaration follows the last US-China skirmish in May, when five Chinese nationals dubbed " military hackers " were charged in the United States for allegedly breaking into US company systems and stealing trade secrets which could be valuable to Chinese companies.