The US Department of Justice is accusing Chinese intelligence officers of stealing sensitive information from American aviation companies

Dushlik/ShutterstockThe alleged hacks began no later than 2010 and ended no earlier than 2015, according to the DOJ.
  • The US Department of Justice (DOJ) has indicted 10 Chinese intelligence officers and those working at their direction for stealing sensitive information from United States aviation companies, according to a federal court filing.
  • The DOJ says over a dozen US and European aviation companies were hacked over a period of more than five years beginning no later than January 2010 in an effort to obtain intellectual property and other confidential information.
  • According to the DOJ, the defendants sought information about a turbofan engine used in commercial aircraft that was being developed by a French manufacturer and a US firm and was similar to one a Chinese state-owned aviation company was trying to make.

The US Department of Justice has indicted 10 Chinese intelligence officers and those working at their direction for stealing sensitive information from United States aviation companies, according to a federal court filing.

The DOJ says over a dozen US and European aviation companies were hacked over a period of more than five years beginning no later than January 2010 in an effort to obtain intellectual property and other confidential information. The alleged hacks ended no earlier than May 2015, the DOJ says.

According to the DOJ, the defendants sought information about a turbofan engine used in commercial aircraft that was being developed by a French manufacturer and a US firm. The engine was similar to one being developed by a Chinese state-owned aviation company, the DOJ says.

“For the third time since only September, the National Security Division, with its US Attorney partners, has brought charges against Chinese intelligence officers from the JSSD and those working at their direction and control for stealing American intellectual property,” John C. Demers, the assistant attorney general for national security, said in a DOJ press release. “This is just the beginning. Together with our federal partners, we will redouble our efforts to safeguard America’s ingenuity and investment.”

The defendants opened email addresses under false identities and used multiple servers in different countries to evade detection, the DOJ says, and employed a number of techniques to gain access to confidential information. Those techniques allegedly included sending emails containing malware, installing malware on the web pages of targeted companies, and working with employees of targeted companies.

Two of the defendants worked for a branch of China’s Ministry of State Security (MSS) – which specialises in domestic and non-military foreign intelligence, as well as some areas of domestic and political security – located in Nanjing. Six of the defendants worked underneath the intelligence officers and were described by the DOJ as hackers. The other two defendants are Chinese nationals who were employees of a French aviation company that was targeted in the alleged hacks.

“This action is yet another example of criminal efforts by the MSS to facilitate the theft of private data for China’s commercial gain,” the US Attorney Adam Braverman said. “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.”

This is a developing story. Check back for updates.

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