Mark Collins – Chinese Cyberspooks Stealing F-35 (and other) Secrets via Canada

Further to this July 2014 post,

The Dragon’s Espionage Vacuum: China unInc. (with Canada)

we know learn of a PLA angle:

Chinese soldiers implicated in U.S. military hacking case

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.

Prosecution “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…

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…

Mr. Su’s extradition hearing took place in Vancouver last July. According to news reports, Canadian Crown lawyers did refer in passing to the two co-conspirators as Chinese military officers, but gave no additional information. In September, a Canadian judge ordered Mr. Su extradited, but he remains in Vancouver pending an appeal to be heard later this year.

Mr. Su is not accused of being a hacker himself. But, according to the documents, engineers and executives with Boeing, Lockheed Martin and Airbus are preparing to testify that his e-mail trails show that he helped the Chinese hackers take bona fide engineering documents off secure servers; this work, they will say, essentially gave China a free ride on aspects of jet projects that cost the U.S. military billions to develop…

Mark Collins, a prolific Ottawa blogger, is a Fellow at the Canadian Global Affairs Institute; he tweets @Mark3Ds

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