Cybersecurity

Another day, another cyber indictment

iStockPhoto / FCW 

The Justice Department has issued its second indictment of one or more Chinese nationals for cyber-espionage in as many months, alleging that a Chinese citizen living in Canada stole aircraft and weapons systems data from major U.S. defense contractors.

The unsealed criminal complaint filed in a Los Angeles court accuses Su Bin, owner of Chinese aviation firm Lode-Tech, of selling data stolen from U.S. defense firms to state-owned companies in China, among other charges. He had two co-conspirators in China, according to the document. The alleged hacking and espionage took place between 2009 and 2013.

The conspirators allegedly gained access to Boeing Co. computers in Orange County, Calif., that are used to support the firm's C-17 military transport aircraft. The hackers also allegedly targeted information related to the F-22 and F-35, fighter jets made by U.S. defense giant Lockheed Martin.

DOJ in May indicted five members of the Chinese military, accusing them of stealing proprietary economic information from six major U.S. companies and organizations, including producers of nuclear energy and aluminum. Prosecutors said then that there were more such indictments to come.

"We remain deeply concerned about cyber-enabled theft of sensitive information and we have repeatedly made it clear that the United States will continue using all the tools our government possesses to strengthen cybersecurity and confront cybercrime," DOJ spokesman Marc Raimondi said in a statement.

Lockheed Martin said in a statement that it was cooperating with the U.S. government's investigation and referred further questions to the FBI. A Boeing spokeswoman said the firm was also cooperating with authorities, including 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," the Boeing spokeswoman said in a statement, adding that "safeguarding information and intellectual property is a top priority, and we will continue to support the FBI and AFOSI as needed."

China has for some time targeted the intellectual property of U.S. defense firms. How prepared the defense industry is for such cyber espionage in the long run will depend in part on an information-sharing framework between government and contractors that participants say has improved in recent years.

About the Author

Sean Lyngaas is an FCW staff writer covering defense, cybersecurity and intelligence issues. Follow him on Twitter: @snlyngaas

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