In late August, the FBI secretly arrested a former National Security Agency contractor who has been accused of stealing top secret computer code the NSA used to hack into the systems of foreign governments.
The former contractor, identified in court documents and by the Justice Department as Harold Thomas Martin III, age 51, of Glen Burnie, Md., work for Booz Allen Hamilton, and was charged with theft of government property and unauthorized removal and retention of classified materials, according to the Washington Post.
If true, the allegations would be another setback for government efforts to secure classified information and computer systems. The disclosure comes three years after another former NSA contractor, Edward Snowden, who also worked for Booz Allen, stole a massive trove of documents and data about the scope and breadth of the NSA’s surveillance operations and leaked the information to the news media.
According to the New York Times, “Martin is suspected of taking the highly classified computer code developed by the agency to break into computer systems of adversaries like Russia, China, Iran and North Korea, some of it outdated.”
In terms of what the FBI found at Martin’s home when he was arrested, the Times reports: “According to court documents, the F.B.I. discovered thousands of pages of documents and dozens of computers or other electronic devices at his home and in his car, a large amount of it classified. The digital media contained ‘many terabytes of information,’ according to the documents. They also discovered classified documents that had been posted online, including computer code, officials said. Some of the documents were produced in 2014.”
It’s unclear if Martin has any connection to a group calling itself the “Shadow Brokers,” which announced on the internet in August that it had stolen NSA code designed to break through network firewalls and get inside the computer systems of competitors like Russia, China and Iran, and would auction the tools off to the highest bidder.
“We have not seen any evidence,” lawyers for Mr. Martin said in a brief statement issued Wednesday. “But what we know is that Hal Martin loves his family and his country. There is no evidence that he intended to betray his country.”
Marin, a Navy veteran who has degrees in economics and information systems and has been working for a decade on a Ph.D. in computer science, does not fit the typical profile of an “insider threat,” the Times notes. The NSA and other federal agencies have spent hundreds of millions and perhaps billions of dollars in new technology and systems designed to detect and prevent insider threats since the Snowden revelations in 2013. It seems clear that those efforts are going to need to continue for the foreseeable future.