NOAA Employee Charged With Computer Breach Met Senior Chinese Official in Beijing

This is a new development in what was previously posted, showing the level of access and its official state support.


A federal weather service employee charged with stealing sensitive infrastructure data from an Army Corps of Engineers database met a Chinese government official in Beijing, according to court documents that reveal the case to be part of an FBI probe of Chinese economic espionage.

Xiafen “Sherry” Chen, an employee of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) office in Ohio, was arrested in October and charged in a federal grand jury indictment with illegally accessing the Army’s National Inventory of Dams (NID).

The NID is a sensitive database containing information on all U.S. dams. U.S. intelligence officials have said the database was compromised by Chinese hackers in 2013 as part of covert efforts by Beijing to gather sensitive information on critical U.S. infrastructure for possible use in a future conflict.

According to an FBI document in the case made public Dec. 30, Ms. Chen and Jiao Yong, an official of the Ministry of Water Resources in Beijing, exchanged a series of emails in May 2012 indicating that the two met in Beijing that year and that she was searching for, and would provide, dam-related information for him.

“It was very glad to meet you in Beijing after so many years and impressed with your achievement and contribution to the nation in water resources development and management,” Ms. Chen stated in a May 15 email.

“I am back home now and have been looking for the dam related information you are interested” in, she added.

The other emails were dated May 21 and May 29.

In response to Ms. Chen’s email, Mr. Jiao stated, “Hi Xiafen: Your email received. I am sorry to reply you with a delay as I was on a one-week trip for inspection of flood works. Thanks for the information you forward me. I will go through it. Best regards, Jiao Yong.”

Ms. Chen is charged with stealing sensitive data “involving critical national infrastructure” after accessing the Army Corps of Engineers dam inventory in May 2012 without authorization. She also is charged with lying to investigators.

A 59-year-old naturalized American, Ms. Chen has pleaded not guilty.

An FBI memorandum dated July 11, 2014, outlining a federal search of Ms. Chen’s email, reveals that the probe was part of an investigation of Chinese economic espionage.

Adm. Mike Rogers, head of the U.S. Cyber Command and director of the National Security Agency, told Congress in November that key networks and control systems for financial, water, and other sectors have been penetrated by foreign states in preparation for future cyberattacks aimed at crippling critical infrastructure.

“We have seen instances where we’re observing intrusions into industrial control systems,” Adm. Rogers told the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence on Nov. 20.

Another email from Ms. Chen to Mr. Jiao included the Internet address for the National Inventory of Dams, which is run by the Army Corps of Engineers alongside the Federal Emergency Management Agency and state regulators.

The NID database contains dam information on “location, type, storage, capacity, year of built, etc.,” she wrote. “However, the database is only for government users and non-government users are not able to directly download any data from this site.”

“I will do some more search and let you know what I come up with,” Ms. Chen stated.

According to the defense document, during a meeting with a Chinese official in 2012, Ms. Chen was asked about “financing and dam repair” and said she would seek the public information upon her return to the United States.

Full article: NOAA Employee Charged With Computer Breach Met Senior Chinese Official in Beijing (Washington Free Beacon)

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