The U.S. Justice Department has charged two Chinese intelligence officers, six hackers, and two aerospace company insiders in a sweeping conspiracy to steal confidential aerospace technology from U.S. and French companies.
For more than five years, two Chinese Ministry of State Security (MSS) spies are said to have run a team of hackers focusing on the theft of designs for a turbofan engine used in U.S. and European commercial airliners, according to an unsealed indictment (below) dated October 25. In a statement, the DOJ said a Chinese state-owned aerospace company was simultaneously working to develop a comparable engine.
“The threat posed by Chinese government-sponsored hacking activity is real and relentless,” FBI Special Agent in Charge John Brown of San Diego said in a statement. “Today, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, with the assistance of our private sector, international and U.S. government partners, is sending a strong message to the Chinese government and other foreign governments involved in hacking activities.”
The MSS officers involved were identified as Zha Rong, a division director in the Jiangsu Province regional department (JSSD), and Chai Meng, a JSSD section chief.
At the direction of the MSS officers, the hackers allegedly infiltrated a number of U.S. aerospace companies, including California-based Capstone Turbine, among others in Arizona, Massachusetts, and Oregon, the DOJ said. The officers are also said to have recruited at least two Chinese employees of a French aerospace manufacturer—insiders who allegedly aided the conspiracy by, among other criminal acts, installing the remote access trojan Sakula onto company computers.