Three ex-intelligence officials from the United States have admitted to hacking for the UAE.
Three former US intelligence operatives acknowledged to participating in a United Arab Emirates hacking operation aimed at the Gulf country’s opponents and rivals in a Virginia court on Tuesday.
To resolve accusations of breaking US export restrictions, computer fraud, and improper use of other people’s computer access, Marc Baier, 49, Ryan Adams, 34, and Daniel Gericke, 40, agreed to pay a total of $1.7 million in fines, the amount they made while working for the UAE.
The complex case was deferred for three years by a federal district court in Alexandria, Virginia, which exposed the global market for governments seeking highly skilled computer security experts to spy on perceived foes and threats.
The three defendants were all former members of the US intelligence community, including the National Security Agency and the military.
They had worked for a US corporation that provided cyber intelligence activities for the UAE government that met US standards, according to the justice department.
They subsequently transferred to higher-paying gigs in 2016 at a UAE government-linked company known as DarkMatter, where they began carrying out hacking jobs on specific targets, including servers in the United States, according to media sources.
According to the Justice Department, one of these occupations provided them unauthorized access to “tens of millions” of smartphones and mobile devices.
The operation’s precise objectives were not revealed.
According to media reports, the operation’s methods included installing malware and exploiting software and hardware flaws to break into and take control of servers, phones, and other digital equipment both inside and outside the country.
Aside from paying fines, the three men had their security credentials revoked, were barred from working in the US intelligence agency, and were prohibited from hacking.
In a statement, FBI Assistant Director Bryan Vorndran warned that the FBI “will fully investigate individuals and corporations who profit from illegal criminal cyber activity.”