Chinese Aerospace Businessman Pleads Guilty in Data Conspiracy Case

Su Bin (also known as Stephen Su and Stephen Subin), a resident of the People’s Republic of China, recently pleaded guilty to participating in a conspiracy to steal sensitive military and export-controlled data from major U.S. defense contractors. The Chinese aviation and aerospace businessmen allegedly entered into a deal in which he would steal the data and then send the information to China, according to the United States Department of Justice.

su bin4Su Bin entered his plea before Judge Christina A. Snyder of the Central District of California. Bin’s original indictment was issued against him in 2014. According to the indictment, Bin was part of a criminal conspiracy to steal military technical data, including data relating to the C-17 strategic transport aircraft and a variety of other fighter jets produced for the U.S. military. Bin was arrested from Canada and transported to the United States shortly after the indictment was issued and Su waived his extradition.

“This plea sends a strong message that stealing from the United States and our companies has a significant cost; we can and will find these criminals and bring them to justice,” stated assistant attorney general for national security John P. Carlin.

Su’s plea agreement involved him admitting to conspiring with two people in China from October 2008 to March 2014 to break into protected American computer networks, including computers belonging to Boeing in Orange County, California, with the intention of stealing “sensitive” military detail and sharing it with counterparts located in China. Su’s plan was to email his co-conspirators and inform them regarding who and what to target after having penetrated a computer network, according to the Department of Justice.

Su’s co-conspirators would then send Su lists of files and folders that were successfully accessed during a network invasion. Su would then instruct the conspirators on which files and folders should be stolen of the list provided.

Su also held another skill valuable to his co-conspirators; he was able to translate stolen files and folders from English to Chinese. He could then write reports regarding the thieved data, approximating its value to its beneficiary.

su bin3Although Su in many ways played the role of a spy, at no point during the proceedings was there any mention of Su and his co-conspirators being associated with the Chinese central government.

“The plea agreement steers clear of accusing China of being behind it, even thouh Su Bin was working with two members of the military,” stated Richard Steinnon, chief research analyst with IT-Harvest.

“The two co-conspirators were identified as military officers, but it seems like these guys were moonlighting,” ventured CEO of Taia Global Jeffrey Carr. “This was not a PLA (People’s Liberation Army) operation. If it was, they wouldn’t have needed Su Bin,” he continued. “Neither would one of the co-conspirators be trying to buy malware on the dark web. The PLA doesn’t have to buy malware on the dark Web to attack a targeted company.”

The true story may be impossible for any standard onlookers to access, but it looks like either way Su Bin will be doing five years in American prison and a fine of around $250,000 for his snooping.

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