Former NSA Employee Pleads Guilty to Taking Classified Information


Pho admitted that, over a five-year period starting in 2010, he copied information from NSA machines and took it all home with him.

But he had installed on his home computer antivirus software made by Kaspersky Lab, a top Russian software company, and Russian hackers are believed to have exploited the software to steal the documents, the officials said.

Pho entered a guilty plea Friday for unlawfully retaining national defense information, the US Department of Justice announced.

"In connection with his employment, Pho held various security clearances and had access to national defense and classified information".

A former National Security Agency hacker has admitted to illegally taking highly classified information from the agency's headquarters, which was later stolen by Russian hackers.

Pho worked at the agency's Tailored Access Operations unit from 2006 to 2016, according to the agreement.

"Beginning in 2010 and continuing through March 2015, Pho removed and retained USA government documents and writings that contained national defense information, including information classified as Top Secret and Sensitive Compartmented Information", the US Department of Justice said in disclosing Friday's guilty plea.

Reportedly, Russian spies stole classified data from an NSA employee's home computer by using the Kaspersky Lab antivirus software onboard.

The US government didn't see it that way and accused the Russian antivirus vendor of conspiring with Russian intelligence to actively search computers for classified material on objective.

The charges carry a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison, followed by three years of supervised release, but prosecutors are recommending he serve eight years, according to his attorney, Robert Bonsib.

The NSA has not commented on the report, but the Department of Homeland Security subsequently issued a directive banning all US agencies from using Kaspersky products.

The guilty plea was announced by Stephen Schenning, acting USA attorney for the District of Maryland; Dana Boente, acting assistant attorney general for national security; and Gordon Johnson, special agent in charge of the FBI's Baltimore Field Office.

U.S District Judge George L. Russell III has scheduled a sentencing hearing for April 6.

NSA has suffered a series of setbacks in recent years.

Reality Leigh Winner, a Texas native who had been stationed in Maryland, was charged in June with sending a classified report to a news organization. Most notably, former NSA contractor Edward Snowden disclosed a cache of classified material in 2013 exposing US government surveillance programs. Victor is a former NSA contractor and Air Force veteran.