Chinese soldiers implicated in US F-35 military hacking case: Canadian newspaper

(From The Globe and Mail)

Two Chinese government soldiers were part of a hacking conspiracy allegedly carried out by a Chinese resident of Canada to steal secrets relating to components of F-35s and other American warplanes, according to court-filed documents.

chihackProsecution “books of record,” recently released by a Vancouver court following a request from The Globe and Mail, make explicit Chinese military ties that were not publicly alleged when this rare cyberespionage prosecution was launched in 2014.

The case centres on Su Bin, a 50-year-old Chinese aviation-industry entrepreneur residing in Vancouver, and the two unnamed “co-conspirators” revealed to be Chinese soldiers. Despite their military connection, it remains unclear whether the alleged scheme was state-sponsored, or whether the conspirators were essentially soldiers moonlighting to enrich themselves.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is considering a visit to China this spring to talk about free trade. In recent years, both U.S. President Barack Obama and former prime minister Stephen Harper have gone public with concerns about Chinese cyberespionage.
US F-35B cutaway diagram

US F-35B cutaway diagram

While most countries spy, China is feared to be in class of its own, when it comes to using hackers to steal military and commercial secrets. Four years ago, now-retired American spymaster Keith Alexander claimed that cybercrime costs the United States hundreds of billions of dollars each year.

In June, 2014, such fears were given a human face. That’s when Canadian police arrested Mr. Su on a U.S. warrant that charged him with being part of an illegal hacking conspiracy. The ongoing extradition case against him relies on intercepted e-mail exchanges, where Mr. Su allegedly helped to focus the hacking efforts of the two Chinese co-conspirators.

The allegation is that the conspirators worked together to identify and raid secure databases belonging to U.S. military contractors who make jets for the Pentagon.

Mr. Su allegedly directed the two hackers toward the e-mail accounts of American aviation engineers whose accounts he felt to be worth breaking into; from there, the China-based hackers mined corporate networks for engineering manuals related to F-35, C-17 and F-22 military jets, documents show. During such breaches, the co-conspirators allegedly circled back to Mr. Su with long lists of files, to ask him what documents they should try to take. Read more

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