The Justice Department on Tuesday (30 October) charged a group of 10 Chinese spies and hackers for conspiring to steal sensitive commercial airline information and other secrets from US and European companies, South China Morning Post has reported.
This is the third such indictment in less than two months as US government has launched an all-out effort to prevent cyber-espionage from China orchestrated by the state’s intelligence officials in connivance with its agents. This indictment is set to worsen the relations between the two countries who are bitterly fighting a trade war.
The alleged hacking of commercial secrets was carried out to benefit a Chinese company and executed by a 10 member strong group led by China’s Ministry of State Security (MSS) agents, which conducts nonmilitary foreign espionage and handles domestic counterintelligence.
The main target of hacking were the computer systems a US and French company, involved in manufacturing a turbofan engine used in commercial airliners. The group also targeted other US aerospace companies which produce parts for the engine makers.
According to the Justice Department, the espionage involved getting a Chinese employee to install a malware on the French company’s computer system. The IT supervisor, another Chinese who was entrusted oversaw information security in the company, warned his colleagues when foreign law enforcement notified the company about the malware. Along with two others, they erased evidence linking the malware to an account controlled by the Chinese government operatives.
The group was charged with targeting an unidentified San Diego computer technology company whose network was repeatedly compromised, causing thousands of dollars of damage. A malware developed under the tutelage of Chinese intelligence agents was deployed to hack the network.
Earlier this month, Yanjun Xu, who also goes with at least two other aliases Qu Hui and Zhang Hui, was arrested and charged for allegedly attempting to steal trade secrets from GE Aviation and other US aerospace companies.
Xu was serving as the deputy director of China's Ministry of State Security (MSS), the country's intelligence agency. He was extradited to the US on Tuesday (9 October) with co-operation from Belgian authorities and will now stand trial. As per the chargesheet, Xu was attempting to steal classified information on composite materials used in GE's fan blades and fan blade encasement.
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