The Phoenix FBI office warns that attempts from the Chinese government to steal sensitive information happen all across the country and even right here in Arizona.
The targets are usually people whose jobs give them access to sensitive U.S. government or business information.
“We have seen cases where individuals are being recruited, being incentivized to return to China and take a job for more money,” Assistant Special Agent Craig Moringiello said.
Moringiello is in charge of counterintelligence and cyber for the Phoenix FBI office.
Just last week, a former engineer at Raytheon Missiles and Defense in Tucson was sentenced to more than three years in prison for taking sensitive military-related technology data in his company-issued computer to China.
Wei Sun had been working with the company for 10 years and had access to information directly related to defense-related technology.
Moringiello said Sun knew the data in his laptop was “extremely sensitive.” He said the case should serve as a warning to others.
“If you are entrusted with secret or sensitive defense data, there are certain rules that come with that – there are responsibilities,” he said, adding those responsibilities include protecting the information to ensure it doesn’t fall in the wrong hands.
Moringiello explained the Chinese government is trying to become a technological and military superpower by the year 2049.
“As a result, they are trying to do everything they can, both illegally and legally, to conduct research and to collect sensitive information so that they can meet their own government goals,” he said.
Nationwide, the FBI has about 5,000 counterintelligence cases at any given time. About half are related to threat from the Chinese government, and about 1,000 of those are specifically economic espionage threats.
“There’s a Chinese economic espionage case in every single one of our field offices, so it is common,” Moringiello said.
The Chinese government usually targets individuals through social media. It offers them business deals or jobs that are too good to be true, with remote work options and high salaries.
They are also overpraised about their skills, and there are very few details that can be found about the person or group contacting them.
Moringiello said individuals who suspect they’re being targeted should notify their employer or their local FBI office.