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Feds charge Chinese intelligence officers with stealing U.S. plane technology

02 November 2018
Feds charge Chinese intelligence officers with stealing U.S. plane technology

A notable one is in 2014 when the one of the Chinese spies asked the hacking team if they had recently sent a spear phishing email out because his mole inside Safran told him that the company management has just warned employees to look out for fake emails. For example, LA-based gas turbine manufacturer Capstone Turbine suffered data loss and had its website seeded with malware to infect others. "This engine was being developed through a partnership between a French aerospace manufacturer with an office in Suzhou, Jiangsu province, China, and a company based in the United States", it explains.

Other companies listed in the indictment that were targeted and hacked were identified as a Massachusetts-based aerospace company; a British aerospace company with offices in Pennsylvania; a British aerospace company with offices in NY; a multinational conglomerate that produces commercial and consumer products and aerospace systems; a French aerospace firm; an Arizona-based aerospace firm; an Oregon-based aerospace supplier; a critical infrastructure company in San Diego; a Wisconsin-based aerospace company; and an Australian domain registrar.

The US Department of Justice has indicted 10 Chinese intelligence officers and hackers with stealing sensitive commercial aviation data from French and US companies.

The alleged conspirators combined a variety of hacking techniques to mount a highly effective campaign. The indictment does not name the US company nor say where it is located. In other cases, prosecutors said, the defendants infected the websites of real companies. Some of the targets were chosen because they would "facilitate further computer intrusions into other companies".

The hackers also installed malware on the targeted companies' web pages, known as watering-hole attacks, which provide defendants with a way to hack computers that have visited the web pages.

The alleged culprit is the Jiangsu Province Ministry of State Security (JSSD), a branch of China's Ministry of State Security (MSS), which is responsible for counterintelligence, foreign intelligence, and political security. Those employees, Gu Gen and Tian Xi, worked in the company's Suzhou office.

A report from CrowdStrike earlier this month identified China as the most prolific nation state threat actor during the first half of 2018.

The indictment is among a small but growing collection of prosecutions that openly accuses the Chinese government of stealing USA trade secrets. "Does it concern you guys?" The list also includes one Australian domain registrar.

According to the indictment, Yanjun Xu, a deputy division director, targeted experts who worked as leaders in the aviation field in private companies - including GE Aviation - and invited them to China to give university presentations as a way to steal trade secrets.

John Demers, the head of the Justice Department's National Security Division, highlighted the pattern of the three cases in a public statement Tuesday.

The Justice Department in recent years has brought similar prosecutions against Chinese military or government officials accused of hacking into American corporations to steal secrets and prosecutors vowed to redouble those efforts.