Hackers Target Airbus via Subcontractors for Engine Data

  • Our Bureau
  • 08:02 AM, September 28, 2019
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Hackers Target Airbus via Subcontractors for Engine Data
Airbus A400M Atlas four-engine turboprop military transport aircraft (image: Airbus)

Hackers seeking data on Airbus Engines for the A400M and A350 aircraft have intruded Airbus’s computer networks via some of its subcontractors.

An AFP report quoting unnamed security sources suggests that the industrial espionage activity is controlled from China. A Chinese government spokesperson denied the accusation yesterday stating, "China is a strong defender of network security and opposes any form of cyber-attack," Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang told reporters in Beijing yesterday.

The intrusions into Airbus’ network systems were through the French technology consulting group Expleo, engine manufacturer Rolls-Royce and some other unidentified subcontractors.

The hackers targeted the virtual private networks (VPNs) that connect the companies to Airbus. The VPN provides access to the subcontractor to certain systems of Airbus and intruding through the VPN allows the hacker to find an entry into the file systems of Airbus.

The hackers posed as the subcontractor seeking information about the engine products taking advantage of the subcontractor’s access to the Airbus network.

The first of the infections was detected in the British subsidiary of Expleo and Rolls Royce late last year. The attackers targeted technical certification documents, which provide information on various aspects of the aircraft meet regulatory requirements, LATribune reported quoting AFP.

Some data stolen related to the engine of the A400M military transport aircraft, which has some of the most powerful turboprop engines in the world, the engine of the A350 widebody jet and aircraft avionics.

Hackers Target Airbus via Subcontractors for Engine Data
C919 (image: YouTube)

China has been trying to develop its C919 passenger jet for several years now, but is facing trouble getting the aircraft certified. In August, Comac, manufacturer of the aircraft, carried out C919 AC104’s maiden flight, in less than a week after the previous prototype AC103 performed new flight tests.

In addition, it is trying to develop a long-haul widebody jet, the C929 in partnership with Russia. The aircraft will be in the same niche as the Airbus A350.

Investigators suspect the Jiangsu (East) regional branch of the Chinese Ministry of State Security (MSS) which the LATribune report claims specializes in aviation espionage.

Hackers Target Airbus via Subcontractors for Engine Data
P&W engine at Irkutsk Aviation plant, Russia: Defenseworld.net image

Recently an executive of the Russian United Engine Corporation (UEC) was arrested in Italy on charges of spying. The arrest, made at the request of the US, was because the executive was trying to glean information regarding Pratt and Whitney engines. UAC has been developing its PD-14 engine for the MC-21 project after US sanctions put a doubt about availability of the P&W engine for the MC-21 aircraft.

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