Hackers target Airbus suppliers in quest for commercial secrets
European aerospace giant Airbus has been hit by a series of attacks by hackers targeting its suppliers in search of commercial secrets, sources told AFP, adding they suspected a Chinese link.
AFP spoke to seven security and industry sources, all of whom confirmed a spate of attacks in the past 12 months but asked for anonymity because of the sensitive nature of the information they were sharing.
Two security sources involved in investigating the hacking said there had been four major attacks.
Airbus has long been considered a tempting target because of the cutting-edge technologies that have made it one of the world’s biggest commercial plane manufacturers, as well as a strategic military supplier.
In January, it admitted to a security incident that “resulted in unauthorised access to data”, but people with knowledge of the attacks outlined a concerted and far bigger operation over the last year.
AFP’s sources said the hackers targeted British engine-maker Rolls-Royce and the French technology consultancy and supplier Expleo, as well as two other French contractors working for Airbus that AFP was unable to identify.
Airbus did not immediately reply to a request for comment.
A spokesperson for Rolls-Royce declined to comment on the specifics of any attack but said: “We have experience of attempts to gain access to our network and we have a team of experts who work closely with the relevant authorities to ensure that we combat these attempts and minimise any potential impact.”
Expleo said it would neither “confirm nor deny” that it had been targeted.
Romain Bottan of the aerospace security specialist BoostAerospace said the intrusions as described by sources to AFP showed that hackers were seeking out weak links in the chain to compromise Airbus’s systems.
“Very large companies are very well protected, it’s hard to pirate them, so smaller companies are a better target,” he said.