An alleged hacking conspiracy targeted designs for a turbofan engine similar to this one. (credit: Ashley Dace)
Federal prosecutors on Tuesday unsealed charges that accused two Chinese government intelligence officers and eight alleged co-conspirators of conducting sustained computer intrusions into 13 companies in an attempt to steal designs for a turbofan engine used in commercial jetliners.
A 21-page indictment filed in US District Court in the Southern District of California said the Jiangsu Province Ministry of State Security, an arm of the People’s Republic of China’s Ministry of State Security, directed the five-year campaign. According to the indictment, between January 2010 to May 2015, the team allegedly used a wide range of methods to break into the computer networks of companies involved in aerospace and turbine manufacturing and Internet and technology services. Their primary goal was stealing data that would allow a Chinese government-owned company to design its own jetliner. With the exception of Capstone Turbines, a Los Angeles-based gas turbine maker, other targeted companies weren’t identified by name and were referred to only as companies A through L.
“Members of the conspiracy targeted, among other things, data and information related to a turbofan engine used in commercial jetliners,” prosecutors wrote in the superseding indictment. “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.” The indictment continued: