Chinese Spies, Hackers Accused Of Stealing Jet Engine Tech From Aviation Companies

Image shows a parked airplane.
frank_peters / Shutterstock

Two Chinese intelligence officers and six hackers have been charged with commercial espionage for trying to steal information about a type of jet engine technology from aviation companies in the United States and abroad.

According to The Guardian, Zha Rong and Chai Meng, who work for the Nanjing-based foreign intelligence arm of the Ministry of State Security (MSS) in China, and six other defendants were accused of conspiring between January 2010 and May 2015 to steal sensitive turbofan engine technology used in commercial aviation.

A French aerospace manufacturer with an office in Suzhou in Jiangsu province and a company based in the United States were developing the engine through a partnership.

U.S. prosecutors said that the hackers used spear phishing to deploy malware and other means to infiltrate the French company.

A Chinese state-owned aerospace company happens to be developing a similar type of commercial aircraft engine at this time, the United States Department of Justice said in a statement.

“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,” the DOJ said.

“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. “

Pictured is the engine used in a Boeing plane.
  Stephen Brashear / Getty Images

Prosecutors said that the hackers attempted to infiltrate 13 companies, which include two aerospace firms based in the United Kingdom. They also hacked into aerospace companies based in Oregon, Arizona, and Massachusetts that manufactured engine parts. Only one company, Capstone Turbine based in Los Angeles, was named.

U.S. attorney Adam Braverman said that the action is another example of criminal efforts by China’s MMS to facilitate theft of private data for its commercial gain.

The charges mark the third time since September that charges were filed against Chinese intelligence officers who tried to steal U.S. intellectual property, according to CNN.

On Oct. 11, Chinese intelligence officer Yanjun Xu was also charged for attempting to commit espionage.

The Inquisitr has earlier reported that Xu was arrested in Belgium and brought to the United States to face charges over attempts to steal trade secrets from aircraft engine maker GE Aviation. It was the first time that a Chinese intelligence operative has been extradited to the United States to face charges.

None of the eight defendants who were named in the indictment on Tuesday, however, are in custody. The United States does not have an extradition treaty with China.