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Ex-NSA Contractor Receives Punishment for Data Breach

SubverseJul 26, 2019, 5:05:13 PM

By Sean Jackson 

A former National Security Agency contractor was sentenced to nine years in prison on July 19th when he was found guilty for a massive theft and breach of security of classified government documents. Harold T. Martin III was already incarcerated for three years when his home in Maryland was raided by the FBI. Martin was found guilty of leaking a large cache of hacking tools from the NSA, and offering it online to a hacker group known as the ‘Shadow Brokers’.

In 2016, Martin reached out to Kaspersky Lab, a Russian cybersecurity company requesting a meeting. He stated that he had ‘time-sensitive information’. Within the hour, the Shadow Brokers dumped a cache of sensitive material, which prompted the FBI to issue a search warrant on Martin’s residence.

FBI agents were astonished when they found fifty terabytes of classified NSA, CIA, and U.S. Cyber Command material related to hacking in Martin’s home, the result of over twenty years of NSA data gathering. Fifty terabytes of data is equivalent to 500 million pages of material. The material contained intelligence that detailed U.S. tactics ‘regarding foreign cyber issues’ as well as strategies to mitigate ‘foreign cyber intrusion techniques’.

Martin worked for Booz Allen Hamilton Holding Corporation in 2016 before his incarceration – a company that also employed Edward Snowden, who released a large cache of classified material to the media in 2013. The documents revealed the magnitude of domestic and international surveillance conducted by the NSA.

Standing before U.S. District Judge Richard D. Bennett, Martin apologized, saying he realized what he did was wrong. Martin stated, “The manner and method of my approach was unorthodox, unconventional, uncanny, but also unauthorized, illegal, and plain wrong. One step beyond black. Please do not copy this. It is not the easy or correct path. I took shortcuts, went backwards, sideways, and around things, crossing major borders and boundaries. It is not good, it’s very, very bad.”

John Demers, the Assistant Attorney General for National Security condemned Martin’s actions, stating, “Instead of respecting the trust given to him by the American people, Martin violated that trust and put our nation’s security at risk. This sentence will hold Mr. Martin accountable for his dangerous and unlawful actions.”

Issues with data leaks from the NSA is not a new issue, and the agency declined any comment about the Martin case. A spokesperson for the NSA did issue a statement with Nextgov regarding how the organization handles data, stating, “Any organization that has sensitive data faces insider threat risk. While the risk can never be completely eliminated, NSA and the intelligence community, as well as industry partners, have enhanced security postures to mitigate these threats.”

Martin offered insight into where the danger lies in terms of intelligence gathering organizations, stating, “Your worst enemy, after the usual suspects, is some of our own. Loose lips sink ships, then as now.”

While Martin may have been sentenced for nine additional years, Judge Richard D. Bennett stated that Martin will receive credit for the three years he has already served.