VANCOUVER – A British Columbia man wanted by the FBI for allegedly directing hackers to steal military secrets from Boeing and other defence contractors will learn Wednesday if he’ll be freed on bail.
Su Bin, a Chinese citizen with permanent residency in Canada, was arrested by B.C. Mounties on June 28 and is facing extradition to the U.S.
The FBI alleges Su is the mastermind behind an elaborate operation that had hackers illegally accessing Boeing’s computers in California and stealing information about the aircraft company’s military projects.
While U.S. authorities want Su, Canadian officials are trying to strip him of his permanent residency status.
Immigration and Refugee Board spokeswoman Melissa Anderson said federal officials tried to remove Su’s residency status last November, but he is appealing the decision.
While Anderson couldn’t reference his specific case, she said such a status is typically stripped when the resident has spent too much time out of Canada.
Su is charged in the U.S. with unauthorized access of a computer and obtaining information, and for accessing a computer to defraud and obtain value. He appeared in a B.C. Supreme for a bail hearing last week.
A 50-page affidavit filed by FBI special agent Noel Neeman said Su heads a China-based aviation technology company called Lode-Tech, which also has an office in Canada.
Su allegedly began working with two unidentified hackers in China in 2009 to target Boeing’s computer network, the documents said.
The affidavit cites a report prepared by the two unnamed hackers in 2012. In the report, titled “C-17 work summary,” they outline an extensive operation that involved them bypassing Boeing’s guarded internal network within months, then stole 630,000 digital files on the C-17 transport jet. The stolen data included detailed diagrams of the military-transport aircraft as well as flight test documents.
“We raised the difficulty level of its counter-reconnaissance work to ensure the secure obtainment of intelligence,” the affidavit quoted the hackers report.
“From breaking into its internal network to obtaining intelligence, we repeatedly skipped around in its internal network to make it harder to detect reconnaissance, and we also skipped around at suitable times in countries outside the U.S.,” said the report, which the FBI said was emailed between the two hackers.
However, the FBI affidavit notes the scope and success of the work-summary report could have been exaggerated.
“For example, based on information I have received from other FBI agents who learned about Boeing’s computer network, I have not discovered any evidence that any classified information has been accessed or exfiltrated,” wrote Neeman.
Still, he said there is evidence that some of the hacking of the C-17 information was successful, because the two unnamed hackers obtained emails that made reference to the aircraft.
The FBI affidavit also said the hackers targeted other military technology, such as the F-22 and F-35 — the fighter jet that Canada is considering buying.
Su is described in the document as the director behind the conspiracy, telling the hackers which companies to target. Once they obtained the data, Su allegedly tried to sell the information to Chinese aviation corporations for “big money,” said the affidavit.
None of the allegations have been tested in court. The FBI said the criminal investigation continues.
A hearing date for Su’s appeal on the immigration process hasn’t yet be set.