Posted by Sean Lyngaas | CNN
The US Department of Justice on Tuesday announced computer fraud charges against three men who allegedly helped set up a hacking program for the United Arab Emirates government.
Marc Baier, Ryan Adams and Daniel Gericke – all ex-US intelligence agencies or the military – are charged with using computer exploits to break into computers in the US and around the world, according to the indictment before the US District Court has been unsealed for the District of Columbia. The hacking program, known as Project Raven, was indicted to provide the United Arab Emirates government with effective hacking tools without an export license.
Baier, Adams and Gericke are also accused of turning computer exploits “into covert hacking systems for UAE government agencies” and stealing personal information from people around the world.
The intelligence services allegedly provided by the three men contained sophisticated hacking tools that can infect a mobile device without the user having to click anything, prosecutors said.
Baier, Adams and Gericke agreed to work with prosecutors on a deal with the government that suspends the charges and pays the three men more than $ 1.6 million in fines.
The three men’s lawyers were not immediately available for comment.
Project Raven is just one example of a booming hacker-for-hire market where governments and non-governmental organizations alike can recruit digital mercenaries. In another case, BlackBerry researchers last year found dozens of malicious Google and Apple apps that were allegedly used to monitor targets in the Middle East and South Asia.
Channing Phillips, acting US attorney for the District of Columbia, said in a statement that “the proliferation of offensive cyber capabilities is undermining privacy and security worldwide”.
Former US government employees are not being given a “free pass” under export control laws, Phillips added.
Glenn Gerstell, who was general counsel to the National Security Agency from 2015-2020, said U.S. intelligence agencies will receive extensive training on their legal obligations after they leave government.
Former government employees, “especially in the defense and intelligence sectors, have specific responsibilities that they must fulfill,” Gerstell told CNN.