A Chinese national has been sentenced to three years and 10 months in prison for hacking American defense contractors to steal trade secrets. Beijing has denied any involvement in the hacking.
Su Bin, who went by the names Stephen Su and Stephen Subin, was handed the sentence in a Los Angeles court on Wednesday, where he was also ordered to pay a $10,000 fine.
The 51-year-old admitted in March to conspiring with two unnamed military officers in China in a bid to obtain plans for F-22 and F-35 fighter jets and Boeing's C-17 military transport aircraft.
According to court documents, the trio succeeded in stealing sensitive data by hacking into the computer networks of major defense contractors before sending the information to China.
'Undermine national security'
Between 2008 and 2014, Su allegedly traveled to the US at least 10 times. He admitted to the court that he sent emails to his two accomplices with guidance on which persons, companies and technologies to target. Once the data was stolen, Su translated it into English before trying to sell it.
"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," prosecutor Eileen Decker said in a statement.
'Gratitude and respect'
Beijing has repeatedly denied any involvement in the hacking case. The country's state-run media lauded Su's spying exploits, however, describing him as a hero.
"We are willing to show our gratitude and respect for his service to our country," said a March editorial in the Global Times, a nationalistic newspaper with close ties to the ruling Communist Party.
"On the secret battlefield without gunpowder, China needs special agents to gather secrets from the US," it added.
Washington and Beijing have repeatedly clashed over what the US describes as rampant cyberspying by the Chinese government on US industry.
A report by the US-China Economic and Security Review Commission last year found that China's increasing use of cyber espionage has already cost US companies tens of billions of dollars in lost sales and expenses in repairing the damage from hacking.
In many cases, the report by the federal commission says stolen trade secrets have been turned over to Chinese government-owned companies.
Last year, the US indicted five Chinese military officers on charges of cyberspying.
In the 1990s, Taiwanese-American Wen Ho Lee was accused of spying for the Chinese government, but eventually pleaded guilty to only one minor charge in an embarrassing debacle that ended in an apology from then US President Bill Clinton.
Chinese-born US citizen Chi Mak was jailed for 24 years in 2008 for conspiring to smuggle sensitive US submarine technology to China.
ksb/jil (AP, AFP, Reuters)