Chinese intelligence officers have been charged in the US with hacking into aerospace companies in the UK, US, France and Australia to steal trade secrets.

The two charged intelligence officers, and other co-conspirators, worked for the Jiangsu Province Ministry of State Security (JSSD), headquartered in Nanjing, which is a provincial foreign intelligence arm of the People’s Republic of China’s Ministry of State Security (MSS).

Turbofan engines

The US Department of Justice (DoJ) says the hacking has been going on since at least 2010 to 2015, and that the conspirators were focused on information related to a turbofan engine used in commercial airliners as well as other confidential data.

Companies affected include Capstone Turbine, a gas turbine manufacturer based in Los Angeles, as well as unnamed companies in Los Angeles, San Diego, Massachusetts, Arizona, Oregon and Wisconsin. Businesses in Britain, France and Australia are also understood to have been affected.

The DoJ says that at the time the hacks took place, a Chinese state-owned aerospace company was working to develop a comparable engine for use in commercial aircraft manufactured in China and elsewhere.

The hackers used a range of techniques, including phishing, using the victim companies’ own websites as ‘watering holes’ to compromise website visitors’ computers, and domain hijacking.

A “concerted effort to steal”

“State-sponsored hacking is a direct threat to our national security,” said U.S. Attorney Adam Braverman.  “The concerted effort to steal, rather than simply purchase, commercially available products should offend every company that invests talent, energy, and shareholder money into the development of products.”

The DoJ noted that this is the third time since September that the US has brought charges against Chinese intelligence officers for stealing American intellectual property.

The Telegraph reports that China has refuted the allegations, quoting the foreign ministry as saying: “The allegations are without any factual basis and are completely fabricated.”

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