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posted by martyb on Thursday September 27 2018, @04:39PM   Printer-friendly
from the me-and-my-shadow...brokers dept.

NSA employee who brought hacking tools home sentenced to 66 months in prison

Nghia Hoang Pho, a 68-year-old former National Security Agency employee who worked in the NSA's Tailored Access Operations (TAO) division, was sentenced today to 66 months in prison for willful, unauthorized removal and retention of classified documents and material from his workplace—material that included hacking tools that were likely part of the code dumped by the individual or group known as Shadowbrokers in the summer of 2016.

Pho, a naturalized US citizen from Vietnam and a resident of Ellicott City, Maryland, had pleaded guilty to bringing home materials after being caught in a sweep by the NSA following the Shadowbrokers leaks. He will face three years of supervised release after serving his sentence. His attorney had requested home detention.

In a letter sent to the court in March, former NSA Director Admiral Mike Rogers told Judge George Russell that the materials removed from the NSA by Pho "had significant negative impacts on the NSA mission, the NSA workforce, and the Intelligence Community as a whole." The materials Pho removed, Rogers wrote, included:

[S]ome of NSA's most sophisticated, hard-to-achieve, and important techniques of collecting [signals intelligence] from sophisticated targets of the NSA, including collection that is crucial to decision makers when answering some of the Nation's highest-priority questions... Techniques of the kind Mr. Pho was entrusted to protect, yet removed from secure space, are force multipliers, allowing for intelligence collection in a multitude of environments around the globe and spanning a wide range of security topics. Compromise of one technique can place many opportunities for intelligence collection and national security insight at risk.

Previously: Former NSA Employee Nghia Pho Pleads Guilty to Willful Retention of National Defense Information

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
Former NSA Contractor Harold Martin Indicted

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  • (Score: 2) by Snotnose on Thursday September 27 2018, @08:20PM (1 child)

    by Snotnose (1623) on Thursday September 27 2018, @08:20PM (#741015)

    No, I think the FBI is the relevant expert here and they said they couldn't deomnstrate intent, which is required by the law, not your little certification.

    No, the FBI didn't want to interfere with a presidential election weeks before election day. Comey clearly thought she should be prosecuted but decided not to.

    Had that server been found 18 months earlier I have no doubt HRC would have ended up in jail. Well, that's not true. I like to think so, but there is a part of me that says "nope, too powerful, never happen".

    I hate it when I see an old person, then realize we went to high school together.
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  • (Score: 2) by bzipitidoo on Friday September 28 2018, @10:35AM

    by bzipitidoo (4388) on Friday September 28 2018, @10:35AM (#741266) Journal

    Are you kidding? Comey most certainly did interfere with the election by making grave accusations against HRC a few days before the election.

    Anyway, this whole discussion about government security sounds naive. Every low level worker with a security clearance is keenly aware that the government has the power to put their ass in jail. That threat gets implied on a near daily basis. Mistakes and failures could be construed as treason. Someone else's mistakes and failures can be pinned on them. If too much is asked of them, expectations are too high, and they've been handed an impossible task, the eventual failure includes the risk that in as part of being forced to take the fall, they'll be jailed. It makes for a nervous work environment. And so, one of the top priorities of most any government intelligence worker is Cover Your Ass. As part of CYA, one thing they like to do is slap security restrictions on everything, treat basic scientific knowledge as national secrets.

    And, oh yes, they want to keep a tight grip on everything. They like to keep computers inside. Carrying a disc or a flash drive out is a big no-no. A rather weird restriction is that you are not to use encryption on any computers assigned to you, not without prior authorization. If you're sending encrypted traffic over the network, how would they know whether it's sensitive info? So, the simplest solution is that you're not allowed to use encryption at all. Not sure how they've squared that with the recent move to https everywhere. Yeah, the paranoia level can get pretty high. If it was possible, they'd make you remove and check your brain into storage at the exit, when you went home for the night.

    For an example of how ridiculous it can get, there's a scene in the movie Hidden Figures, which is set in the 1950s during the times of the Red Scare, in which one of the workers is accused of being a spy for the Commies. She was denied some info she needed to do some work that was asked of her, and found the info out anyway. It's pretty obvious the accusation was motivated by the desire of another worker to cover his ass (he was responsible for keeping the info secret), and he probably wouldn't have minded if she'd been fired or even jailed. Fortunately for her, the boss was more interested in accomplishing things, and wasn't about to encourage any Communist witch hunts on his watch.