Science

NSA staffer pleads guilty over taking home top secret files

NSA staffer pleads guilty over taking home top secret files

Pho admitted that, over a five-year period starting in 2010, he copied information from NSA machines and took it all home with him.

Pho's home computer was using antivirus software made by the Russian software company Kaspersky Lab and Russian hackers are thought to have exploited it to steal the documents, the officials said.

Nghia Hoang Pho, 67, pleaded guilty in a Baltimore federal court Friday to a single count of willfully retaining national defense information in violation of federal law, the Department of Justice announced afterwards.

"In connection with his employment, Pho held various security clearances and had access to national defense and classified information".

A former NSA employee has pleaded guilty to removing classified information and taking it home. That analysis matched the new code with code Kaspersky had previously connected to what it has nicknamed the Equation Group - widely believed to be to NSA's elite Tailored Access Operations division, where Pho worked.

He worked on "highly classified, specialized projects and had access to government computer systems, programs, and information, including classified information", according to the agreement.

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"Beginning in 2010 and continuing through March 2015, Pho removed and retained USA government documents and writings that contained national defense information, including information classified as Top Secret and Sensitive Compartmented Information", the US Department of Justice said in disclosing Friday's guilty plea.

News of the breach was first reported by The Wall Street Journal earlier this year, which said hackers working for Russian intelligence had obtained classified NSA data. The Vietnam-born American citizen, who lives in Ellicott City, Maryland, faces roughly six to eight years in the clink, with sentencing set for April next year.

Bonsib declined to answer questions about Kaspersky.

Reality Winner, 25, a former Air Force linguist who worked as an NSA contractor at a facility in Augusta, Georgia, was charged in June with copying a classified USA report and mailing it to a news organization.

In August 2016, Harold Thomas Martin III, 51, of Glen Burnie, Maryland, was arrested by the FBI after federal prosecutors said the former NSA contractor illegally removed highly classified information and stored the material in his home and auto. In 2013, Edward Snowden, an NSA contractor who worked for Booz Allen, stole a cache of agency documents which he turned over to the news media.

The Times reported that Pho is now free, while awaiting sentencing in April 2018. Victor is a former NSA contractor and Air Force veteran.


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