The FBI Grills Suspect Who Stole More NSA Secrets Than Edward Snowden

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The FBI Grills Suspect Who Stole More NSA Secrets Than Edward Snowden


Last August, a hacking tool used by the National Security Agency appeared for sale online, setting off a whirlwind of questions. How did the Shadow Brokers (the group who ran the auction) get their hands on this program? Was it stolen from the NSA itself? How much damage will its release cause? Who was responsible for the leak?

It would now seem that many of these questions are being answered as the Federal Bureau of Investigation continues to dig into the matter, uncovering the largest stash of stolen, top-secret documents in the nation’s history–much larger than the Panama Papers or Edward Snowden’s infamous whistleblowing.

The NSA contractor found in possession of the classified documents, Harold Thomas Martin III, was also arrested in August for the theft. During his tenure with the agency, Martin had the clearance level to access highly confidential data and even served on the team that originally developed the leaked hacking tool, the NSA’s Tailored Access Operations. According to another former NSA employee, the leaked tools were capable of evaluating the hacking abilities of other parties (in their case, rival nations) to better inform the host country how to protect themselves from attack.

Investigators are now focused on determining if Martin intentionally leaked the documents, sold them to support his reportedly lavish appetites, or if they were stolen from him just as he stole them from the agency. Opinions and theories are wild and varied as to possible motives for Martin to have taken the data, citing financial issues or a desire to be a hero as possible drivers.

Regardless, this all shows how critical it is to keep data out of the hands of those who don’t need access to it as a direct part of their work responsibilities. The fact that the NSA–an organization notorious for their confidentiality–is the reason we are shown this, is the pinnacle of irony.

Let’s put it this way: Do you have employees that have full access to all of your company data? Not every employee needs direct access to your company contacts, your financial data, personally identifiable information, or any other sensitive information that you wouldn’t want escaping your walls. A disgruntled employee on their way out might try to take what they can to start their own competing business or try to slander yours. It’s best to make sure employees can only access what they need to perform their duties, and that this access is audited regularly.

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