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US Indicts Chinese Intelligence Officers and Insiders for Aviation Theft

02 November 2018

Federal prosecutors on Tuesday unsealed charges that accused two Chinese government intelligence officers and eight alleged co-conspirators of conducting sustained computer intrusions into 13 companies in an attempt to steal designs for a turbofan engine used in commercial jetliners.

China has long pilfered USA corporate, academic and military information to bolster its position in the global economy, and the three cases show the Justice Department's continued crackdown on China's efforts to steal corporate data for China's commercial gain, Adam L. Braverman, the US attorney for the Southern District of California, said in a statement.

Earlier this month, Yanjun Xu, a spy for the Chinese ministry of state security, was arrested and charged with economic espionage and attempting to steal trade secrets from U.S. aviation and aerospace companies.

It suggests the efforts to steal intellectual property were state-backed and far more organised than previously believed. The...

It is noteworthy that at this time a Chinese state-owned aerospace company working to develop a similar engine. In the report only Los Angeles-based Capstone Turbine was mentioned by name.

According to the indictment, the Chinese hackers infiltrated a number of companies in several US states under the orders of officers from the Chinese Ministry of State Security.

The malware installed on the French company's Suzhou office was the Sakula malware, which was also used in Anthem, OPM, and other attacks.

Their efforts to steal sensitive commercial aviation and other data took place from January 2010 through May 2015.

Others were listed as a French aerospace manufacturer with an office in Suzhou, China, a United Kingdom aerospace company, and a multinational conglomerate that produces commercial and consumer products and aerospace systems.

The hackers also used hijacked company websites known as "water holes" that draw unsuspecting computer operators to the sites and fool them into giving up network access credentials.

American leaders have repeatedly accused Beijing of overstepping its bounds, orchestrating a sophisticated economic and military campaign to bolster its influence, and getting ahead by cheating and stealing intellectual property from the West.

"The concerted effort to steal, rather than simply purchase, commercially available products should offend every company that invests talent, energy, and shareholder money into the development of products".

The case appears to have been uncovered in May 2015 after an OR company that built parts for turbofan jet engines identified the Chinese malware and removed it from its networks. In addition, the suspects also hacked into aerospace companies in Massachusetts, Oregon and Arizona - all of which manufacture engine parts.

The indictment identified 12 targeted companies - eight of them based in the United States - specialising in aerospace, technology or "critical infrastructure".

"This action is yet another example of criminal efforts by the [Ministry of State Security] to facilitate the theft of private data for China's commercial gain", US Attorney Adam Braverman said in a statement.

In a text message indicating malware had been planted in one of the targeted computers, Tian told a Chinese intelligence officer, "The horse was planted this morning".

US Indicts Chinese Intelligence Officers and Insiders for Aviation Theft