A Chinese national was sentenced Wednesday in Los Angeles to nearly four years in prison for his part in a plot that involved the theft of sensitive military information from U.S. defense contractors.
U.S. District Judge Christina A. Snyder sentenced Su Bin to 46 months in prison and ordered him to pay a $10,000 fine. Under a plea agreement signed earlier this year, Su, 51, faced a maximum of five years behind bars.
Su was arrested in Canada in 2014 and pleaded guilty in March to one count of conspiring to gain unauthorized access to a protected computer and to violate the Arms Export Control Act by exporting defense articles on the U.S. Munitions List contained in the International Traffic in Arms Regulations, the Justice Department said Wednesday.
Prosectors said Su admitted to participating in a plot that involved foreign hackers breaching the computer systems of American defense contractors, including Boeing, in order to steal files concerning sensitive military technology.
From 2008 through 2014, Su communicated with hackers in China and told them which individuals and entities they should attempt to infiltrate. Together, the three men worked to penetrate their targets and pilfer information for the purpose of exporting to China for financial gain.
Among the hundreds of thousands of files stolen by Su and his co-conspirators was data concerning the C-17 strategic transport aircraft and certain fighter jets, including the F-22 and the F-35, the Justice Department said.
“Protecting our national security interests, including sensitive military information, is the Justice Department’s highest priority,” prosecuting attorney Eileen Decker said in a statement. “Over the course of years, this defendant sought to undermine the national security of the United States by seeking out information that would benefit a foreign government and providing that country with information it had never before seen. The outstanding efforts of the prosecutors and investigators who developed this case demonstrate our commitment to protecting our nation’s security from all threats. As this case shows, criminals can be held accountable no matter where they are located in the world.”
When charges against Su were first announced in 2014, cybersecurity expert Jeffrey Carr said his arrest warrant was the first ever issued by the FBI against a foreigner accused of cyberespionage. Prior to then, federal prosecutors had only pursued cases against foreign groups linked directly to government abroad, Mr. Carr said.
China has denied any involvement in the hacking plot, but state-run media applauded Su’s actions in an editorial earlier this year.
“We are willing to show our gratitude and respect for his service to our country,” read the March op-ed in the Global Times. “On the secret battlefield without gunpowder, China needs special agents to gather secrets from the U.S.”
• Andrew Blake can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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