A Chinese businessman and permanent resident of Canada allegedly hacked into the computer systems of U.S. companies with large defence contracts, including Boeing, to steal data on military projects, including some of its latest fighter jets.
On June 27, the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation filed a complaint outlining the alleged participation of Su Bin, also known as Stephen Su and as Stephen Subin, in a conspiracy to unlawfully access computers in the United States.
Su was arrested in B.C. the following day, an FBI spokesperson confirmed.
Prosecutors allege he worked with two unnamed Chinese hackers to get the data between 2009 and 2013, and that he attempted to sell some of the information to state-owned Chinese companies.
The three hackers targeted fighter jets such as the F-22 and the F-35 as well as Boeing's C-17 military cargo aircraft program, according to the criminal complaint filed in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles that was unsealed Thursday.
Su, born in 1965, is the owner and manager of Lode-Tech, or Lode Technologies Co., an aviation technology company based in China with an office in Canada.
FBI spokesperson Laura Eimiller in Los Angeles said Su remains in custody in Canada. He has a bail hearing set for July 18.
Data relates to aircraft, weapons
U.S. Department of Justice spokesman Marc Raimondi said the conspirators are alleged to have accessed the computer networks of U.S. defence contractors without authorization and stolen data related to military aircraft and weapons systems.
"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 cyber security and confront cybercrime," Raimondi said.
Boeing said in a statement that the company cooperated with investigators and will continue to do so to hold accountable "individuals who perpetrate economic espionage or trade secret theft against U.S. companies."
"We appreciate that the government brought its concerns about a potential compromise of our protected computer systems to our attention," the company said in a statement.
None of the claims have been proven in court.
Accusations of hacking by China and counterclaims of such activity by the U.S. government have strained U.S.-Chinese relations. Chinese hacking has been a major theme of U.S.-China discussions this week in Beijing, though both sides have publicly steered clear of the controversy.
The New York Times reported Wednesday that Chinese hackers broke into the computer networks of the Office of Personnel Management earlier this year with the intention of accessing the files of tens of thousands of federal employees who had applied for top-secret security clearances. Senior U.S. officials say the hackers gained access to some of the agency's databases in March before the threat was detected and blocked.
White House spokesman Josh Earnest said Thursday that both the federal personnel office and the Department of Homeland Security took steps to mitigate any risk as soon as they learned about the possible intrusion.