China has rejected a report that homegrown hackers were suspected of being behind a series of cyberattacks on European aerospace giant Airbus.
“In recent years, there have been many reports about cyberattacks in the media. In these reports, without any evidence, the parties concerned always pin the label of cyberattack on China and smear China,” foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said at a regular news briefing on Friday.
“The practice is neither professional nor responsible, and even has ulterior motives,” Geng said, adding that China “is a firm defender of network security”.
The comments followed a story published by the AFP news agency on Thursday. The report cited multiple unnamed security sources alleging that hackers had targeted Airbus suppliers – British engine maker Rolls Royce and French technology consultancy and supplier Expleo, along with two French Airbus subcontractors that were not identified.
Expleo and Rolls Royce did not respond to requests for comment.
Over the past 12 months, Airbus has been the target of four major cyberattacks, the AFP cited one of the sources as saying. Some of the attacks date back further, the report said.
The hackers appeared to have been seeking information about engines for the A400M military transport aircraft and the A350 airliner, according to the sources in the report.
The AFP report did not make clear whether the cyberattacks it described had actually led to data breaches or affected Airbus operations.
It said the security sources had not definitively attributed responsibility for the cyberattacks, but that they bore the hallmarks of groups linked to Chinese intelligence.
Airbus said last January that a cyberattack on its systems has resulted in a data breach.
Last year, prosecutors in the United States alleged in a court filing that Chinese intelligence officers and hackers had stolen information about a jet engine from an unnamed private company, whose description in court documents matched General Electric-Safran joint venture CFM, a major supplier to Airbus as well as its US rival Boeing. CFM has declined to comment.