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posted by Fnord666 on Tuesday December 05 2017, @08:48AM   Printer-friendly
from the tinker-tailor-soldier-spy dept.

A former National Security Agency employee who worked at Tailored Access Operations has pleaded guilty to willful retention of national defense information, the same charge Harold T. Martin III faces:

A former National Security Agency employee admitted on Friday that he had illegally taken from the agency classified documents believed to have subsequently been stolen from his home computer by hackers working for Russian intelligence.

Nghia H. Pho, 67, of Ellicott City, Md., pleaded guilty to one count of willful retention of national defense information, an offense that carries a possible 10-year sentence. Prosecutors agreed not to seek more than eight years, however, and Mr. Pho's attorney, Robert C. Bonsib, will be free to ask for a more lenient sentence. He remains free while awaiting sentencing on April 6.

Mr. Pho had been charged in secret, though some news reports had given a limited description of the case. Officials unsealed the charges on Friday, resolving the long-running mystery of the defendant's identity.

Mr. Pho, who worked as a software developer for the N.S.A., was born in Vietnam but is a naturalized United States citizen. Prosecutors withheld from the public many details of his government work and of the criminal case against him, which is linked to a continuing investigation of Russian hacking.

Related: "The Shadow Brokers" Claim to Have Hacked NSA
The Shadow Brokers Identify Hundreds of Targets Allegedly Hacked by the NSA
Former NSA Contractor May Have Stolen 75% of TAO's Elite Hacking Tools
NSA Had NFI About Opsec: 2016 Audit Found Laughably Bad Security
Reality Winner NSA Leak Details Revealed by Court Transcript


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  • (Score: 4, Insightful) by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday December 05 2017, @09:57AM (5 children)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday December 05 2017, @09:57AM (#605565)

    But he had installed on his home computer antivirus software made by Kaspersky Lab, a top Russian software company, and Russian hackers are believed to have exploited the software to steal the documents, the officials said.

    Who really believes that "Russian Hackers" exploited the Kaspersky software to steal the documents?

    Seems more likely that the AV software worked as designed, detected potential malware and submitted various archives containing malware and documents[1]. Other AV software have similar features - submit samples to "Cloud".

    Conclusion: if you want to detect NSA zero-day malware you might consider adding Kaspersky software to your arsenal. And the NSA et all aren't happy with that so they'd prefer if less people use Kaspersky due to evil "Russian Hackers"...

    [1] https://betanews.com/2017/10/26/kaspersky-nsa-files/ [betanews.com]

    One of the infections in the USA consisted in what appeared to be new, unknown and debug variants of malware used by the Equation group.
    The incident where the new Equation samples were detected used our line of products for home users, with KSN enabled and automatic sample submission of new and unknown malware turned on.

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  • (Score: 5, Interesting) by jcross on Tuesday December 05 2017, @02:04PM

    by jcross (4009) on Tuesday December 05 2017, @02:04PM (#605621)

    Sounds somewhat plausible. Another possible narrative I thought of (leaning in the other direction) is that the guy was compromised somehow and then instructed to install Kaspersky and take the documents home. I mean it's a great cover story if/when the leak gets found out. Maybe instead of arranging sophisticated dead drops, the spies of the future will always have their documents "stolen" from them, since unlike in the old days you'll never be expected to notice when someone copies a file and exfiltrates it over the internet.

  • (Score: 2) by DeathMonkey on Tuesday December 05 2017, @06:58PM (3 children)

    by DeathMonkey (1380) on Tuesday December 05 2017, @06:58PM (#605756) Journal

    Who really believes that "Russian Hackers" exploited the Kaspersky software to steal the documents?

    Israel's intelligence officers watched them do it. [nytimes.com]

    • (Score: 2, Insightful) by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday December 05 2017, @08:04PM (1 child)

      by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday December 05 2017, @08:04PM (#605788)

      Who believes Israeli intelligence officers?

      • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday December 06 2017, @12:49AM

        by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday December 06 2017, @12:49AM (#605923)

        Ummm.... jews?

    • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday December 06 2017, @10:08AM

      by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday December 06 2017, @10:08AM (#606061)

      That's like believing the Mossad when they claim the Russians robbed your house because they were there watching the whole thing when it happened.