U.S. authorities have arrested a 51-year-old contractor for stealing classified government information that the New York Times describes as NSA source code for hacking into the computers of American adversaries.
While the FBI and Justice Department declined to provide any details on Martin’s government employment, the Times reports he is an NSA contractor working for Booz Allen Hamilton. If that is correct, it would be the second time in three years that a Booz contractor has left NSA facilities with highly sensitive information. Whistleblower Edward Snowden worked for the contractor when he made off with large amounts of data from the signals intelligence agency.
The NSA did not respond to questions about Martin’s employment.
Harold T. Martin, III allegedly removed classified information and stored it at his Maryland home, where investigators discovered the material during a search, in which they uncovered documents and digital files stored on computers and digital storage devices.
According to an affidavit filed by an FBI agent seeking an arrest warrant, “a large percentage of the materials recovered from Martin’s residence and vehicle bore markings indicating that they were property of the United States and contained highly classified information,” including top secret material.
Booz confirmed that Martin was an employee of the company, and said in a statement that it is cooperating with authorities and has fired Martin.
“At this point, these are mere allegations. There is no evidence that Hal Martin intended to betray his country. What we do know is that Hal Martin loves his family and his country,” Jim Wyda, the federal public defender representing Martin, said in a statement.
It remains unclear exactly what Martin allegedly stole from the NSA. The Times describes the material as “highly classified computer codes developed to hack into the networks of foreign governments.”
Such tools would likely be among NSA’s most prized weapons, giving its hackers access to the computer systems of nations targeted by the agency for surveillance. If source code left NSA’s facilities, it will raise questions about whether hacking tools have been compromised and potentially rendered ineffective. Hacking tools developed by the NSA would be of great interest to both criminal hacking groups and national intelligence agencies, both of whom would likely shell out large sums of money to acquire such code.
In August, a group of hackers calling themselves the Shadow Brokers posted NSA hacking tools online and announced an auction for additional code. The hackers complained last week that no one is bidding on the public auction.
The material made public by the Shadow Brokers allowed a hacker to break into widely used firewalls and other computer equipment and utilized highly prized software vulnerabilities.
Computer security experts and agency veterans believe the material posted by the group are genuine NSA hacking tools.
FBI and DOJ officials declined to comment on whether they believe Martin had any connection with the Shadow Brokers leak.
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