On 23 March 2016, before the United States District Court of California, Mr Su Bin, a Chinese businessman in the aerospace and aviation fields, pleaded guilty to charges of conspiring to steal sensitive military aircraft data from US defence contractors including Boeing and Lockheed Martin. The plea represents a first for the U.S. government, which is currently seeking to prosecute economic cyber espionage in other cases.
Mr Su was arrested in Canada in July 2014, and was returned to the US in February 2016. It is believed that, beginning in around October 2008, Mr Su acted with two unidentified co-conspirators in accessing the corporate computers of defence contractors and stealing information on component production, aircraft training and flight testing. Mr Su’s role in the conspiracy was to identify which companies and which specific files to target. That information, which was prohibited from export outside the US, was then sent to China for sale to third parties. Su and his co-conspirators kept reports detailing the information they had acquired through their hacking activities, including its value and details of the financial beneficiaries of their activities.
Mr Su is due to be sentenced on 13 July and faces a maximum sentence of five years and a fine of $250,000 or twice his financial gain from the spying, whichever is greater.