Su Bin, a 50-year-old Chinese businessman, pleaded guilty Wednesday in a California federal court to conspiring to hack into U.S. Defense contractors’ systems to steal sensitive military information.
Su was initially arrested in Canada in July 2014 on a warrant issued by U.S. request. He waived extradition and has transported to the United States in February 2016.
In a statement released by the Department of Justice, Su admitted to conspiring with two individuals in China from October 2008 to March 2014 to gain unauthorized access to computer networks of defense firms, like California-based aviation company Boeing, in an effort to obtain highly sensitive military data and to export that data illegally from the United States to China.
In a statement made by Assistant Attorney General for National Security, John Carlin:
“Su Bin admitted to playing an important role in a conspiracy, originating in China, to illegally access sensitive military data, including data relating to military aircraft that are indispensable to keeping our military personnel safe. This plea sends a strong message that stealing from the United States and our companies has a significant cost; we can and will find these criminals and bring them to justice. Our National Security Division remains sharply focused on disrupting cyber threats to the national security, and we will continue to be relentless in our pursuit to those who seek to undermine our security.”
As part of this conspiracy, Su would email his co-conspirators giving them guidance on what persons, companies, and technologies to target during these intrusions. One co-conspirator would then obtain access to data stored on computers of U.S. companies and email Su directory file listings & folders showing the information the hacker was able to access. Su then aided his co-conspirator as to which files to steal, and once the data was stolen, Su would then translate the content of certain data from English to Chinese. In addition, Su and his co-conspirators each wrote, revised and emailed reports about the data and technology they obtained, including the value to the final beneficiaries of their hacking activities.
Su’s sentencing is set for July 13, 2016, and faces a maximum sentence of five years in prison with a $250,000 fine, or twice the gross gain from the offense.
Last September, President Obama and Chinese President Xi Jinping came to an agreement on the seriousness of cyber security during a meeting in Washington D.C. But how effective the pact has been is unclear, with many researchers fearing this pact will do little to eliminate Chinese cyber-attacks. Obama claimed that “we’ve agreed that neither the U.S. nor the Chinese government will conduct or support cyber theft of intellectual property.’ Xi said that the Chinese strongly oppose and combat the theft of commercial secrets and other kinds of hacking attacks.
The U.S. government attempts to ward off millions of cyber threats each year. According to a report released by the Office of Management and Budget, government attackers executed 77,000 cyber cases, including network intrusions and data breaches, during 2015- a ten percent increase from 2014.
Will Plaster, House of Representatives Chief Administrative Officer, claims that a third of the 200 million emails sent to the U.S. House in 2015 contained malware or viruses. In addition, Department of Veterans Affairs Chief Information Officer, LaVerne Council, claims that the agency warded off 160 million malware attacks last year alone.
With government agencies keeping widespread amounts of confidential data, it’s vitally important that these organizations have security standards, such as DISA STIG secure configuration guidance, and policies in place to not only spot the breach but stop the breach entirely.
The idea of security best practices have been developed for a reason, and without them in place, breaches will continue to escalate. With NNT’s Change Tracker Gen7, an organization will be equipped with solutions like File Integrity Monitoring and Change & Configuration Management to help protect individual’s credentials and information from a possible breach.