Toulouse, France - Airbus and its suppliers were hit by a series of cyber attacks aiming to steal the technology secrets of the European aircraft manufacturer, according to the sources who spoke to Agence France Press.
These sources told AFP that the attacks could be carried out by Chineses hackers to capture the company's industrial secrets.
There have been at least four big attacks in the last 12 months, according to two security advisors who involved in the investigations.
The company is an appealing target for international hackers due to its cutting-edge technologies that were used both in civil and military products.
This year in January, Airbus faced one of the biggest security breach attempts to access unauthorized data.
Hackers also targeted British engine manufacturer Rolls-Royce and three French suppliers working with Airbus.
Aerospace security specialist Romain Bottan told AFP that the hackers were seeking security vulnerabilities in the systems of the targeted companies.
Big companies are well protected, it's hard to pirate them, but smaller companies are easier targets,
One of the attacks intended to get access to the private network between Airbus and the French technology consultancy firm Expleo.
According to the same sources, the hackers seemed to target the technical documents about the certification process of the Airbus's commercial jets.
Hackers were also interested in the propulsion systems and avionics systems of the Airbus A350 passenger jet.
The cyber security experts who spoke to AFP did not name the attackers due to the extreme difficulty in identifying the source of the attacks.
But the state-backed Chinese hackers are usual suspects because of the similar attempts in the past.
The Chinese state-run aircraft manufacturer Comac is in the process of obtaining certification for its narrowbody jet C919. The aircraft is intended to compete with the A320neo and Boeing 737 MAX.
But the Chinese company had to push back the process because of the unknown reasons.
Engines and the avionics are the fields that Chinese manufacturers are weak, according to the experts.
Besides the C919, Comac is also working to develop a widebody passenger plane (C929) with its Russian partners.
The United States intelligence services already identified several state-backed hacker groups such as ATP10 and JSSD that are linked to the Chinese military and intelligence services .
The JSSD is believed to focus on the aerospace industry, one source said.
In October 2018, the US Justice department named several JSSD officers who are responsible for an attack targeting the US-based Franco-American engine manufacturer CFM International.
A Chinese state-owned engine manufacturer was working to develop a similar commercial aircraft engine that of the CFM International when the attacks occurred, a US investigation revealed.
Airbus did not answer AFP's questions about the hack attempts. The French Aerospace giant has a delicate position due to its strong commercial relations and industrial cooperation with China ,including an Airbus A320 Final Assembly Line in Tianjin.
The European Aerospace Group has recently signed a contract with a Chinese manufacturer for the supply of airframe parts for the Airbus's commercial jets, including the wings.
Update: China’s Foreign Ministry rejected the involvement in cyber attacks to Airbus after French news agency AFP published a news linking these attacks to China.
China resolutely opposes any form of cyber attack. Recent reports are irresponsible, unprofessional, and have ulterior motives,
said Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang today (Sept. 27) during a daily media briefing.