The US has charged a Chinese businessman with hacking into the computers of Boeing and other defence contractors in order to download information about military aircraft, the latest example of what US officials believe to be a long-running Chinese campaign of industrial espionage.
Su Bin, who is based in Canada, conspired with two other individuals to steal the data from company computers and tried to sell the data to contacts in China, according to an indictment which was unsealed in a federal court in Los Angeles on Friday.
The charges come as US secretary of state John Kerry criticised Chinese cyber-hacking during a US-China summit this week, which he said was “threatening our national competitiveness”.
With the issue of cyber theft of trade secrets becoming one of the main bones of contention between the US and China, the Obama administration has promised to take a much tougher stance towards hacking. In May, it charged five Chinese military officers with theft of intellectual property.
The Chinese government denies that it has a systematic strategy to try to steal important industrial secrets and believes that the Edward Snowden revelations about the activities of the National Security Agency demonstrate that many of the US allegations smack of hypocrisy. Chinese state media said on Friday that the Apple iPhone could represent a threat to national security because of the way users can be tracked.
The latest case offers a glimpse into the complex network that surrounds many hacking cases, with Mr Su effectively presented in the indictment as a sort of cyber entrepreneur looking for customers for the intelligence he managed to download. There is no suggestion that the Chinese government was directly involved in the case.
US officials say that some of the hacking cases that have been revealed were conducted by units of the military, including the officers targeted in the recent indictments. However, some cases involved freelancers who did not appear to be receiving direction or instructions from any one company or government agency.
The criminal complaint says that Mr Su and his co-conspirators claimed to have stolen a large amount of data from Boeing related to the C-17 military cargo plane. They also allegedly tried to get information about other aircraft, including the F-22 and F-35 fighter jets.
Mr Su was arrested in Canada on June 28 and remains there, according to the Associated Press. He runs an aerospace technology company called Beijing Lode Technology. The two other individuals were not identified but were described by prosecutors as “affiliated with multiple organisations and entities in the PRC [China]”.
The New York Times reported this week that hackers based in China had penetrated earlier this year the computers of the federal government office which handles personnel management, including applications for security clearances.
中国政府否认它有一项试图窃取重要产业机密的系统战略，并相信爱德华?斯诺登(Edward Snowden)对美国国家安全局(NSA)活动的爆料表明，美国的很多指控有虚伪之嫌。中国官方媒体上周五表示，苹果(Apple) iPhone可能对国家安全构成威胁，原因是其用户可被追踪。
据美联社(Associated Press)报道，苏斌于6月28日在加拿大被捕，并仍被拘留在该国。他经营着一家名为“北京洛德科技”(Beijing Lode Technology)的航空航天技术公司。诉状并未指明另外两个人的身份，但检方称其“隶属于中华人民共和国的多个组织和实体”。
另据《纽约时报》(New York Times)上周报道，中国黑客今年早些时候曾侵入负责人事管理（包括安全许可申请）的联邦政府办公室的电脑。