Former US intelligence officer admits to hacking offense at work for Emirates
WASHINGTON — Three former U.S. intelligence officers hired by the United Arab Emirates to commit hacking crimes and violations of U.S. export laws that have been made public by the United Arab Emirates, according to court documents made public on Tuesday.
The documents detail a conspiracy by three men to assist Emirati intelligence operatives in breaches aimed at furnishing the Emirate with advanced technology and harming the perceived enemies of the small but powerful Gulf nation.
Prosecutors said the men helped Emirates, a close US ally, gain unauthorized access to “obtain data from computers, electronic devices and servers around the world, including computers and servers in the United States”.
All three men worked for Darkmatter, a company that is effectively a branch of the Emirates government. They are part of a trend of former US intelligence officers hoping to accept lucrative jobs from foreign governments to enhance their capabilities to scale up cyber operations.
Legal experts have said the rules governing this new era of digital mercenaries are unclear, and the allegations were made public on Tuesday as an early salute in the fight to prevent former US spies from becoming gun-for-hire overseas. can be in.
The three men, Mark Baer, Ryan Adams and Daniel Gerrick, admitted to violating US laws as part of a three-year deferred prosecution agreement. If the men abide by the agreement, the Justice Department would drop the criminal prosecution. Each person would also have to pay a fine of tens of thousands of dollars – the amount they earned by working for Darkmatter. Men will also never be able to get security clearance from the US government.
Mr Baird worked for the National Security Agency unit that conducts advanced offensive cyber operations. Mr. Adams and Mr. Gerrick served in the military and intelligence community.
Darkmatter originated in another company, an American firm called Cyberpoint, which had originally won a contract from Emirates to help defend the country from computer attacks.
Cyberpoint obtained a license from the US government to work for Emirates, a necessary move to regulate the export of military and intelligence services. Many of the company’s employees worked on highly classified projects for the NSA and other US intelligence agencies.
But according to former employees, Emirates had bigger ambitions and repeatedly pressured Cyberpoint employees to exceed the limits of the company’s US license.
Cyberpoint rejected requests from Emirati intelligence operatives to try to crack encryption codes and hack websites placed on US servers – operations that would have steered away from US law.
So in 2015 Emirates founded Darkmatter – a company that is not bound by United States law – and lured many of Cyberpoint’s US employees to join.
According to a roster of employees obtained by The New York Times, Darkmatter hired several other former NSA and CIA officers, some of whom earned salaries of hundreds of thousands of dollars a year.
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