COURT DOC: Chinese Intelligence Officers and Their Recruited Hackers and Insiders Conspired to Steal Sensitive Commercial Aviation and Technological Data for Years
Chinese intelligence officers and those working under their direction, which included hackers and co-opted company insiders, conducted or otherwise enabled repeated intrusions into private companies computer systems in the United States and abroad for over five years. The conspirators ultimate goal was to steal, among other data, intellectual property and confidential business information, including information related to a turbofan engine used in commercial airliners.
The charged intelligence officers, Zha Rong and Chai Meng, and other co-conspirators, worked for the Jiangsu Province Ministry of State Security (‘JSSD’), headquartered in Nanjing, which is a provincial foreign intelligence arm of the Peoples Republic of Chinas Ministry of State Security (‘MSS’). The MSS, and by extension the JSSD, is primarily responsible for domestic counter-intelligence, non-military foreign intelligence, and aspects of political and domestic security.
From at least January 2010 to May 2015, JSSD intelligence officers and their team of hackers, including Zhang Zhang-Gui, Liu Chunliang, Gao Hong Kun, Zhuang Xiaowei, and Ma Zhiqi, focused on the theft of technology underlying a turbofan engine used in U.S. and European commercial airliners. This engine was being developed through a partnership between a French aerospace manufacturer with an office in Suzhou, Jiangsu province, China, and a company based in the United States. Members of the conspiracy, assisted and enabled by JSSD-recruited insiders Gu Gen and Tian Xi, hacked the French aerospace manufacturer. The hackers also conducted intrusions into other companies that manufactured parts for the turbofan jet engine, including aerospace companies based in Arizona, Massachusetts and Oregon. At the time of the intrusions, a Chinese state-owned aerospace company was working to develop a comparable engine for use in commercial aircraft manufactured in China and elsewhere.
Defendant Zhang Zhang-Gui is also charged, along with Chinese national Li Xiao, in a separate hacking conspiracy, which asserts that Zhang Zhang-Gui and Li Xiao leveraged the JSSD-directed conspiracys intrusions, including the hack of a San Diego-based technology company, for their own criminal ends. (Source: U.S. Department of Justice)