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Paris Air Show 2017: GKN beefs up cyber security to protect military technology during China expansion

19 June 2017

GKN Aerospace has put in place "additional safeguards" to protect its military technologies from industrial espionage as it expands its commercial presence in China, a senior official told reporters ahead of the Paris Air Show.

With GKN heavily invested in a number of Western military programmes, including the F-35, the company has had to protect itself from industrial espionage as it expands its commercial interests in China. (IHS Markit/Patrick Allen)With GKN heavily invested in a number of Western military programmes, including the F-35, the company has had to protect itself from industrial espionage as it expands its commercial interests in China. (IHS Markit/Patrick Allen)

Speaking in London a few weeks before the event, the company's CEO Kevin Cummings said that, while industrial espionage is a constant danger throughout the world, GKN Aerospace's growth into the Chinese commercial sector over recent years has necessitated further measures being put in place to protect the proprietary knowledge it has invested in a range of western defence programmes.

"Anyone who doesn't think that they are being [cyber] attacked is not paying attention. It is constant, and it is something that we are seeing right across the world - in Europe, the UK, the US, and elsewhere. I don't want to indict any country in particular, but China is clearly looking for industry [secrets], and so we have additional safeguards in place in China - we have taken it to another level."

Cummings declined to be drawn on the nature of these safeguards, but did note that they do sometimes have the unintended consequence of frustrating the company's Chinese commercial customer as well as the company itself on occasions. However, they are absolutely necessary, he said.

With GKN Aerospace heavily involved in the F-35 programme (canopy, titanium structures, composites, exotic metals, and anti-icing protection) as well as the Airbus Defence and Space A400M airlifter (metals and composites), the Lockheed Martin C-130J Hercules transport aircraft (engine nacelles), and the Sikorsky CH-53K helicopter (aft fuselage), the company would be a prime target for industrial espionage. Technologies developed by GKN Aerospace include 3D printing, additive manufacturing, composites, advanced canopies, and anti-icing coatings.

GKN Aerospace currently has one commercial aerospace facility in China; an electrical wiring plant in Lanfang.

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