Chinese state media is full of praise for the hacker accused of stealing a US F-35 Fighter Plane. A state-run media last Wednesday said that spying on the US is a service to China while praising the Chinese national who hacked the networks of US defense contractors, delivering confidential information to China. According to court documents, Su Bin also known as Stephen Su locally, is a “wealthy businessman.”
While Su, 50, is being celebrated as a hero in his home country, he has pled guilty to conspiring with others to break into the networks of Boeing and other American defense contractors in a federal court in Los Angeles, California. He admitted to conspiring with two unnamed accomplices in China to try to acquire plans for F-22 and F-35 fighter jets and C-17 transport aircraft. According to prosecutors, the hacking took place between October 2008 and March 2014.
The Chinese government has denied any connection to Su’s case. The Chinese millionaire had been residing in Canada, fought extradition to the US, and then struck a deal whereby a guilty plea would limit his sentence to no more than five years imprisonment.
In the meanwhile, Su is being lauded as patriotic in his home country. “We have no reliable source to identify whether Su has stolen these secrets and transferred them to the Chinese government. If he has, we are willing to show our gratitude and respect for his service to our country,” said an 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. As for Su, be he recruited by the Chinese government or driven by economic benefits, we should give him credit for what he is doing for the country.
“If Su was wronged and forced to plead guilty, he should have our sympathy. As the “war of information” between China and the US continues, there will probably be more Chinese framed as spies and jailed in the US. This is a tragedy of the times, and we hope the Chinese working in sensitive professions in the US can protect themselves.”
But it also questioned whether the plea agreement revealed the truth of the matter. “Every country is gathering intelligence. The largest and most well-known information-collecting agencies are the CIA and FBI in the US. The FBI has even listed China as their top target. Recent years have seen the FBI arresting quite a few “Chinese spies,” but most of them proved to be innocent. In the meantime, China has kept a low profile in reporting the exposure of US spies out of various considerations.
“In most cases, governments won’t acknowledge these spies after they have been caught. For example, whenever China intercepted spies from Western countries, the governments they served routinely denied any connection and even mobilized the Western media to attack China’s human rights and win over sympathy.”
However, according to Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Hong Lei, Beijing “firmly opposes and does not support any cyberhacking activities.”
For years, the US and China have been accusing each other, which the US describes as rampant cyberspying by the Chinese government on US industry. Su represents the first person successfully prosecuted by the US for stealing state secrets through hacking.