Hackers tried to steal Airbus secrets via contractors: AFP

PARIS (Reuters) - A series of cyber attacks on Airbus AIR.PA in the past few months was conducted via the computer systems of its suppliers and security sources suspect a link to China, AFP news agency reported on Thursday.

FILE PHOTO: A man walks past an Airbus logo at the Langkawi International Maritime and Aerospace Exhibition in Langkawi, Malaysia March 28, 2019. REUTERS/Feline Lim/File Photo

China has repeatedly denied involvement in hacking and neither the foreign ministry nor China’s official cyber regulator responded to requests for comment on the report.

An Airbus spokesman said the company is “aware of cyber events” and like any major high-tech industrial player it is a target for “malicious acts”.

Airbus “continuously monitors” such threats through detection systems and can take “immediate and appropriate measures to protect itself at all times,” he added.

Airbus said last January that a cyber attack on its systems had resulted in a data breach.

Last year U.S. prosecutors 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 U.S. rival Boeing BA.N. CFM has declined to comment.

According to the AFP report, which cited multiple unnamed security sources, cyber attacks in the past months on Airbus were mounted via French technology consultancy Expleo, engine maker Rolls Royce RR.L, and two French Airbus subcontractors which were not identified.

Expleo and Rolls Royce did not respond to requests for comment.

Over the past 12 months, Airbus has been targeted by four major cyber attacks, 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 A350 airliner, according to the sources in the report.

The AFP report did not make clear whether the cyber attacks it described had actually led to data breaches or impacted Airbus operations.

It said the security sources had not definitively attributed responsibility for the cyber attacks, but that they bore the hallmarks of groups linked to Chinese intelligence.

Writing by Christian Lowe; Additional reporting by Ben Blanchard in Beijing, Tim Hepher in Paris;Editing by Laurence Frost and Elaine Hardcastle