A former Metro Vancouver resident has pleaded guilty in California to hacking into the computer networks of major U.S. defence contractors and sending stolen military data to China.
Chinese citizen Su Bin, who is also known as Stephen Su and Stephen Subin, was arrested on the U.S. charges in Richmond two years ago and launched an unsuccessful B.C. Supreme Court battle against his extradition.
U.S. officials announced Wednesday that Bin, 50, appeared in a Los Angeles courtroom after a plea agreement had been reached.
When he is sentenced in July, he could face five years in prison and a $250,000 U.S. fine.
In the agreement, Bin admitted to conspiring with two people in China from October 2008 to March 2014 to gain unauthorized access to protected computer networks in the U.S., including computers belonging to the Boeing Company in Orange County, California.
Bin was able “to obtain sensitive military information and to export that information illegally from the United States to China,” the agreement states.
Some of the stolen information related to military technical data, including data relating to the C-17 strategic transport aircraft and certain fighter jets produced for the U.S. military.
“Protecting our national security is the highest priority of the U.S. Attorney’s Office, and cybercrime represents one of the most serious threats to our national security,” U.S. Attorney Eileen Decker said after Bin’s plea. “The innovative and tireless work of the prosecutors and investigators in this case is a testament to our collective commitment to protecting our nation’s security from all threats.”
She said the guilty plea demonstrates “that these criminals can be held accountable no matter where they are located in the world and that we are deeply committed to protecting our sensitive data in order to keep our nation safe.”
Bin admitted that he would email his co-conspirators with targets he wanted them to hack. The China-based hackers then sent him detailed file listings they had accessed during the hacks so Bin could pick which files and folders he wanted stolen.
Once Bin had the stolen files, he translated some of them into Chinese.
U.S. authorities said that Bin and his accomplices also wrote reports about “the information and technology they had acquired by their hacking activities, including its value, to the final beneficiaries of their hacking activities.”
Bin’s plea agreement says that he and partners “intentionally stole included data listed on the United States Munitions List contained in the International Traffic in Arms Regulations.”
And Bin also admitted that he engaged in the crime for money and specifically sought to profit from selling the data the he and his conspirators illegally acquired.
Assistant Attorney General John Carlin said 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 in keeping our military personnel safe.”
He said his division “remains sharply focused on disrupting cyber threats to the national security, and we will continue to be relentless in our pursuit of those who seek to undermine our security.”
Bin is the owner and manager of Lode-Tech, a Chinese-based company focused on aviation technology with an office in Canada.
At the time of his arrest in June 2014, Bin had permanent resident’s status in Canada. He told a B.C. judge that he owned a Vancouver home then worth $1.8 million and said both his children were born in Canada.
Throughout his court appearances in B.C., his wife and Chinese government officials sat in the public gallery.