Usa News

Former U.S. intelligence officers admit hacked workplace crimes for Emiratis


WASHINGTON – Three former U.S. intelligence officers hired by the United Arab Emirates to conduct sophisticated cyber operations have admitted to committing hacking crimes and violating U.S. export laws that restrict the transfer of military technology to foreign governments, according to reports court documents released on Tuesday.

The documents detail a three-man plot to provide the Emirates with cutting-edge technology and aid UAE intelligence agents in breaches aimed at harming perceived enemies of the small but powerful Gulf nation.

The men helped the Emirates, a close ally of the United States, gain unauthorized access to “acquire data from computers, electronics and servers around the world, including computers and devices. servers in the United States, ”prosecutors said.

The three men worked for DarkMatter, a company that is actually an arm of the UAE government. They are part of a trend of former U.S. intelligence officers to take lucrative jobs with foreign governments in the hope of boosting their abilities to mount cyber operations.

Legal experts have said the rules governing this new era of digital mercenaries are murky, and the charges released on Tuesday could be some sort of opening salvo in a battle to deter former U.S. spies from becoming guns for hire at abroad.

The three men, Marc Baier, Ryan Adams and Daniel Gericke, have admitted to violating US laws under a three-year deferred prosecution agreement. If the men stick to the deal, the Justice Department will drop the criminal charges. Each man will also pay hundreds of thousands of dollars in fines – the amount he earned working for DarkMatter. Men will also never be able to receive a security clearance from the US government.

Mr. Baier worked for the National Security Agency unit that conducts advanced offensive cyber operations. Mr. Adams and Mr. Gericke have served in the military and in the intelligence community.

DarkMatter has its origins in another company, an American company called CyberPoint which initially won contracts from the Emirates to help protect the country from cyber attacks.

CyberPoint has obtained a license from the US government to work for the Emiratis, a necessary step intended to regulate the export of military and intelligence services. Many of the company’s employees had worked on highly classified projects for the NSA and other US intelligence agencies.

But the Emiratis had bigger ambitions and repeatedly pressured CyberPoint employees to exceed the company’s U.S. license limits, according to former employees.

CyberPoint has rejected requests by UAE intelligence agents to try to crack encryption codes and hack websites hosted on US servers – operations that would have been against US law.

So in 2015, the Emiratis founded DarkMatter – forming a company not bound by US law – and attracted many US employees of CyberPoint.

DarkMatter employed several other former NSA and CIA officers, according to an employee list obtained by The New York Times, some earning salaries of hundreds of thousands of dollars a year.

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