Former US Intelligence Officers Admit to Workplace Hacking


WASHINGTON — Three former American intelligence officers recruited by the United Arab Emirates to conduct sophisticated cyber operations, which they admit to violating US export laws that restrict crimes of hacking and the transfer of military technology to foreign governments, Court documents released on Tuesday.

The documents detail a conspiracy of the three men to equip the Emirate with advanced technology and aid Emirati intelligence officers in breaches aimed at harming the perceived enemies of the small but mighty Gulf nation.

Prosecutors said the men helped Emirates, a close American ally, gain unauthorized access to “receive data from computers, electronic devices and servers around the world, including computers and servers in the United States.”

The three men effectively worked for DarkMatter, an arm of the Emirati government. Them part of a trend The number of former American intelligence officers who have accepted lucrative jobs from foreign governments, hoping to strengthen their ability to launch cyber operations.

Legal experts said the rules governing this new era of digital mercenaries are vague and that the charges made public on Tuesday could be the opening salvo in a war to deter former American spies from becoming hired weapons abroad.

Three men, Marc Baier, Ryan Adams, and Daniel Gericke, admitted to violating US law as part of a three-year deferred prosecution agreement. If the men stick to the deal, the Justice Department will stop criminal prosecution. In addition, each man will pay a fine of hundreds of thousands of dollars, which is the amount they earn by working for DarkMatter. The men will also never get security clearance from the US government.

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

DarkMatter had its origins in an American firm called CyberPoint, which initially won contracts from Emirates to help protect the country from computer attacks.

CyberPoint has received a license from the American government to work for the Emirate, a necessary step towards regulating the export of military and intelligence services. Many of the company’s employees had worked on top-secret projects for the NSA and other American intelligence agencies.

But the Emirate had bigger ambitions, according to former employees, and CyberPoint repeatedly pressured its employees to exceed the limits of the company’s American license.

CyberPoint has denied requests from Emirati intelligence officials to crack encryption codes and hack websites hosted on American servers – operations that may contravene American law.

In 2015, the United Arab Emirates founded DarkMatter – a company that is not bound by United States law, and convinced CyberPoint’s large number of American employees to join.

According to an employee list obtained by The New York Times, DarkMatter has recruited several former NSA and CIA officers, some of whom are paid hundreds of thousands of dollars a year.



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