Pentagon Hack-Helper Just Wanted Some Cash

File under greed and more greed: It’s cold hard cash that motivated one multimillionaire Chinese citizen to help his homeland make off with blueprints for Pentagon military jet components.

One would think that nationalistic pride, or some kind of cloak-and-dagger spy status was Su Bin’s game, but no. It’s entirely more pedestrian than that.

The Vancouver resident and aviation entrepreneur simply teamed up with hackers from his homeland to steal military secrets because he “specifically sought to profit from selling the data” to entities in China, according to the plea deal [download].


This, despite relocating to a $2-million house in Vancouver in 2012, shortly after The Wall Street Journal profiled him as a frustrated Beijing businessman worth around $13 million. In that article, he whined about the things he had to do to get by on the mainland: “Regulations here mean that businessmen have to do a lot of illegal things,” he said.

Unless there are things that we don’t know about the Great White North, choice of location apparently has no influence on whether or not Mr. Su engages in illegal activity.

As Canada’s Globe and Mail described:

According to a plea deal released on Wednesday, Mr. Su admitted he was part of a criminal hacking conspiracy that dates back to 2008 and continued to 2014. He used his aviation expertise to act as a data scout for two hackers based in China. He admits to helping them identify people, databases and documents they could hit within U.S. defence [sic] contracting companies. For example, the hackers would break into a secure database and then e-mail Mr. Su a long list of files in a directory. He would identify which English-language blueprint manuals were most worth taking.

China allegedly had wanted schematics related to transport and fighter jets known to the Pentagon as C-17s, F-22s and F-35s.

The 50-year-old pleaded guilty in a California court this month to US spying charges, and he faces a maximum five-year prison sentence—it’s low because he didn’t actually carry out any hacking himself. Canadian immigration authorities meanwhile decided not to declare Mr. Su a Chinese spy and strip him of his Canadian residency status.

So much for his bad-ass sleeper agent image. Maybe his aliases have something to do with the disinterest: he’s also known as Stephen Su and Steven Subin. Booooooooring.

Ironically, for someone who claims to be all about the Benjamins (or Maos, as the case may be), he will be responsible for “twice the gross gain or gross loss” of any financial damage that he did, the court ordered—which could be worth billions.

As Canada’s decision to dispense with the “enemy of the state” treatment of Su indicates, he was most certainly not a ringleader in the espionage effort, but rather its bumbling face. The real perps, sources told the Washington Post, are two much more dangerous China-based hackers who have never been named publically by prosecutors.

Photo © Everett Historical

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