Su Bin, a Chinese national, pleaded guilty this week to hacking into Boeing and other companies in an effort to steal plans related to Boeing fighter jets and military transport planes.
While there were other co-conspirators, Su Bin appears to be the only one indicted. The DOJ did say that the data was sent to China.
Su Bin was arrested in Canada in 2014 and stayed in jail in Canada for two years. I am not sure what his thinking was, but he waived extradition last month and then plead guilty to those charges this month.
While I have no evidence of this, the Chinese government likely made him an offer he could not refuse, to quote the Godfather. If he has family in China, that can be a powerful club for the Chinese government to Wield. They just want this to disappear.
One of the things that came out from this is that he was inside Boeing’s network for 6 years. For a company as security conscious as Boeing is, that is a long time to go undetected.
While he could get 5 years in U.S. prison, he could go home after that a hero for helping China build the Y-20, a knockoff of our C-17. He also gets credit for the two years he spent in Canadian prison, so the 5 years is likely only 3 years.
Frank Cilluffo, director of GWU’s Center For Cyber and Homeland Security, said that prosecuting hackers can serve as a deterrent to future theft of U.S. trade secrets. I have bad news for him. Soldiers, and that is what he is, get shot and blown up way too often, but we still have an army. As does China. To think think that this will deter soliders from completing their mission is naive. That doesn’ t mean we shouldn’t indict and prosecute these guys, but I doubt it will make any difference, other than, possibly, having them conduct their hacking from countries that will not extradite them. That is a bigger problem. It is harder for us to see what they are doing halfway around the world.
We should also consider that our guys do the same things in China and other countries. Espionage is a time honored theme. In this country, we can trace it back to Benedict Arnold and in other countries, it goes back as far as recorded history goes. I don’t think that sentencing a soldier to a few years in a relatively nice U.S. prison (unlike, say, Chinese prisons), is much of a deterrent.
The real question at hand is how many Su Bins are operating in this country and other countries, stealing industry’s intellectual property – whether that is technology, industrial process, financial or other data. For U.S. businesses, this should be a reality check that yes, the bad guys are after our stuff and will take it if we let them.
Information for this story came from Federal Computer Weekly.