WASHINGTON – Three former US intelligence officers hired by the United Arab Emirates to carry out sophisticated cyber operations have admitted crimes of hacking and violating US export laws that restrict the transfer of technology military service to foreign governments, according to court documents released Tuesday.
The documents detail a three-man plot to provide Emirates with cutting-edge technology and assist United Arab Emirates intelligence agents in breaches aimed at causing damage to the United Arab Emirates. perceived enemies of the small but powerful Gulf state.
These men gave Emirates, a close US ally, unauthorized access to “collect data from computers, electronic devices and servers around the world, including on computers and computers.” owner in the United States,” prosecutors said.
The three men worked for DarkMatter, a company that was the main arm of the Emirati government. They are part of a trend of former US intelligence officers accepting lucrative jobs from foreign governments in the hope of enhancing their ability to carry out cyber operations.
Legal experts say the rules governing this new age of digital mercenaries are murky, and the charges made public on Tuesday could be something of an opening in a battle to aim. prevent former US spies from becoming hired guns abroad.
Three men Marc Baier, Ryan Adams and Daniel Gericke admitted to breaking US law as part of a three-year deferred prosecution agreement. If the men comply with the agreement, the Justice Department will drop criminal prosecution. Each man will also pay hundreds of thousands of dollars in fines – money they earned working for DarkMatter. The men will also never be able to get a US government security clearance.
Mr. Baier works for the National Security Agency unit that specializes in advanced hacking operations. Mr. Adams and Mr. Gericke have served in the military and in the intelligence community.
DarkMatter originated from another company, an American company called CyberPoint that originally won a contract from Emirates to help protect the country from computer attacks.
CyberPoint has received a license from the US government to work for Emiratis, a necessary step to regulate the export of military and intelligence services. Many of the company’s employees worked on top-secret projects for the NSA and other US intelligence agencies.
But Emiratis has bigger ambitions and repeatedly pushes CyberPoint employees over the company’s US license boundaries, according to former employees.
CyberPoint rejected requests from intelligence agents of the United Arab Emirates to attempt to crack encryption and hack websites hosted on US servers – activities that would likely violate US law.
So, in 2015, Emiratis founded DarkMatter – forming a company not bound by US law – and attracted many American employees of CyberPoint to join.
DarkMatter has recruited a number of other former NSA and CIA officers, according to a list of employees obtained by The New York Times, some of whom earn salaries in the hundreds of thousands of dollars a year.