Chinese man accused of hacking into Boeing computers

A Chinese citizen was charged with plotting to steal data from U.S. defense contractors, among other ways through a successful hack of the Boeing Co.’s computer system, amid an expanding crackdown on industrial espionage by China.

Su Bin, the owner of a Chinese aviation technology company with an office in Canada, conspired with two unidentified individuals in China to break into the computer networks of U.S. companies to get information related to military projects, according to charges unsealed July 10 in federal court in Los Angeles. Su advised the two others in China on what data to target, according to the charges.

Su’s alleged co-conspirators claimed to have stolen 65 gigabytes of data from Boeing related to the C-17 military cargo plane, according to the criminal complaint. They also allegedly sought data related to other aircraft, including Lockheed Martin Corp.’s F-22 and F-35 fighter jets.

The Obama administration escalated its effort to punish technology theft in May, charging five Chinese military officials with stealing trade secrets through cyber-espionage and casting the hacker attacks as a direct economic threat. Secretary of State John Kerry, who visited China this week, said the hacking has a “chilling effect on innovation.” Chinese state-run media in return have alleged that products made by U.S. companies, including Apple Inc. iPhones, pose a security threat.

Boeing said in an emailed statement that safeguarding information and intellectual property is a “top priority” and the planemaker is cooperating with the FBI, the U.S. Attorney’s Office and the Air Force Office of Special Investigations.

“We appreciate that the government brought its concerns about a potential compromise of our protected computer systems to our attention,” Chicago-based Boeing said. “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 U.S. companies.”

Su was arrested in British Columbia on June 28, Lyse Cantin, a spokeswoman for the Canadian Department of Justice, said in a statement. A bail hearing is scheduled for July 18, Cantin said.

Laura Eimiller, a spokeswoman for the FBI in Los Angeles, declined to comment on the people or entities that Su worked for.

No one answered a phone call to the Chinese embassy in Washington seeking comment after regular business hours.

Su owns an aviation technology company called Lode-Tech and is in contact with Chinese military and commercial aerospace entities, according to the criminal complaint.

The two unidentified Chinese individuals are “affiliated with multiple organizations and entities in the PRC,” according to U.S. prosecutors.

They are involved with an “entity” that has set up technology bases and does surveillance work and intelligence collection outside China to “avoid diplomatic and legal complications,” according to the criminal complaint, citing a report one of the two individuals sent to the other.

They helped gather information about 32 U.S. military projects, many of which involved multiple defense contractors, according to the filing, citing a Feb. 27, 2012, email between the two Chinese individuals. Su has been working with the two other individuals since the summer of 2009, according to the criminal complaint.

The Boeing C-17 data was stolen in 2010, and there’s no evidence it includes classified information, prosecutors said.

Su and one of his co-conspirators in China were also looking to sell the C-17 information and other technology they stole for “big money” to Chinese aircraft corporations, according to the U.S., which cited emails between the two.

Su said in an email to one of the co-conspirators: “It’s not that easy to sell the information. If money is collected for the sample of 17, it won’t be easy to collect your big money that would follow.”

In another email, Su said “They are too stingy!” without identifying who he was referring to.

Su and the other individuals were seeking information that they could match to buyers or customers willing to pay a significant price, prosecutors said.

They also obtained information about an F-22 component and a flight test plan for the F-35, according to the criminal complaint. An additional report Su sent to the two people in China in 2011 pertained to an unidentified U.S. “Project A” that would allow them to “stand easily on the giant’s shoulders,” according to the complaint.

“Lockheed Martin is cooperating with the government’s investigation into the matter,” Jennifer Allen, a spokeswoman for the Bethesda, Maryland-based company, said in an emailed statement. Allen referred further questions to the FBI.

Boeing in April said it moved up its schedule to close its C-17 aircraft final assembly plant in Long Beach, California, by three months to the middle of 2015. Boeing said the adjustment was a result of “current market trends and the timing of expected orders.” The company first announced plans to end C-17 production in September 2013.

The C-17 Globemaster is a four-engine military transport that has “delivered cargo in every worldwide operation since the 1990s,” according to Boeing’s website. The plane, which can refuel in flight, can accommodate loads as bulky as the M-1 Abrams, the U.S. Army’s main battle tank.

China’s Y-20 shares some of the same attributes, with four engines mounted on wings placed high on the fuselage. Like the C-17, the Y-20 also has its main, multiwheel undercarriage set close to the hull, an arrangement common among military cargo planes to ease loading and unloading.

There are 216 Globemasters deployed among 12 U.S. military bases, according to Boeing’s website. Smaller detachments are in service in the U.K., Australia, Canada, Hungary, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates.

The case is U.S. v. Su Bin, 14-01318, U.S. District Court, Central District of California (Los Angeles).

More in Local News

These little piggies stay home

Norman, who was spotted last week in Everett, is part of a trio kept as pets by the “pig whisperer.”

Cheering families welcome Kidd, Shoup after 6 months at sea

“I get back Daddy back today,” said one homemade sign at Naval Station Everett.

Stanwood man, 33, killed in crash near Marysville

Speed may have been a factor, the sheriff’s department said.

Street-legal ATVs approved for some roads near Sultan

Supporters foresee tourism benefits. Opponents are concerned about injury and pollution risks.

Jamie Copeland is a senior at Cedar Park Christian Schools’ Mountlake Terrace campus. She is a basketball player, ASB president, cheerleader and, of course, a Lion. (Dan Bates / The Herald)
Cedar Park Christian senior stepping up to new challenges

Jamie Copeland’s academics include STEM studies, leadership, ASB activities, honor society.

Woman, 47, found dead in Marysville jail cell

She’d been in custody about four days after being arrested on warrants, police said.

County plans to sue to recoup costs from ballot drop-box law

A quarter-million dollars could be spent adding 19 ballot boxes in rural areas.

Providence Hospital in Everett at sunset Monday night. Officials Providence St. Joseph Health Ascension Health reportedly are discussing a merger that would create a chain of hospitals, including Providence Regional Medical Center Everett, plus clinics and medical care centers in 26 states spanning both coasts. (Kevin Clark / The Daily Herald)
Merger would make Providence part of health care behemoth

Providence St. Joseph Health and Ascension Health are said to be talking. Swedish would also be affected.

5 teens in custody in drug-robbery shooting death

They range in age from 15 to 17. One allegedly fatally shot a 54-year-old mother, whose son was wounded.

Most Read