A Chinese citizen residing in Vancouver has entered a peal deal after admitting to helping China-based hackers steal blue prints for US military jets.
Su Bin, a millionaire aviation expert, negotiated a maximum prison sentence of five years, according to court documents released Wednesday.
Su said he engaged in a hacking conspiracy that targeted US defense-contracting companies from 2008 to 2014. During this time, the Chinese hackers breached directories on secure databases. Afterward, they emailed Su lists of file names on those directories. Using his aviation expertise, Su would instruct them on which documents were most valuable.
The conspirators were believed to have been seeking information on US fighter jets including F-22s, F-35s, and C-17s.
According to the plea-deal document, Su “specifically sought to profit from selling the data” to entities in China.
Spying charges were first brought against Su in July 2014. At the time, he was living in his $2 million adopted home in Vancouver. In 2015, Canadian immigration officials were attempting to revoke Su’s residency status on grounds that he was “engaging in an act of espionage … that is contrary to Canada’s interests.”
Su fought extradition until last month.
He suddenly decided to travel to the US, plead guilty, hire five lawyers, and negotiate a plea deal. Around the same time, Canadian immigration authorities dropped their bid against Su.
Prior to his plea deal, corporate engineers were preparing to testify that documents found in Su’s email exchanges were linked to projects costing US taxpayers billions of dollars.
Under his plea conditions, Su is responsible for “twice the gross gain or gross loss” of any financial damages he made.
As for the China-based hackers, who knows?
The plea deal makes no mention of charges against these conspirators, which it only refers to as “citizens of China and located in China.”
According The Globe and Mail, however, court filings in Canada refer to them as “Chinese military officers,” who sent Su pictures of themselves in uniform with distinguishable rank.
The Chinese government is known to employee hackers specifically directed toward military and aviation targets.