Posted on September 15, 2021 at 4:50 PM

Reports have revealed that three former US intelligence officials have admitted to working as cyberspies for the United Arab Emirates. The espionage attacks were done in violation of the existing US hacking laws, and restrictions were put in place to prevent access to sensitive military technology.

The three operatives, Marc Baier, Ryan Adams and Daniel Gericke, made the admissions after receiving a deal that protected them from prosecution. According to the admission, the three were part of a clandestine unit titled “Project Raven.” The UAE used the clandestine unit for espionage attacks on its enemies.

Aggressive Hacking Group

The Project Raven team has been actively involved in espionage attacks that target the enemy states of the UAE. The team behind the hacks has gained access to the accounts of human rights activists, journalists and governments that were at odds with the UAE.

The statement issued by the three operatives stated that they accessed computer networks in the United States. As a result, they siphoned information from the American government using various sophisticated hacking software. The three operatives made the attacks without getting the necessary authorization from the US government.

The court papers detailing the activities of the three individuals were released in the US federal court in Washington on Tuesday. However, the three men and their attorneys declined to comment on the matter despite several requests.

In addition, the UAE embassy in Washington DC also failed to provide any official response to the revelations.

Admitting to the cyber-espionage attack was not the only deal offered to the three men to escape prosecution. The three operatives were also required to pay a joint total of $1.69 million. Moreover, they were asked never to seek security clearance from the US. A security clearance is a requirement that is needed for all jobs that require access to national security details.

Commenting on the matter, the Acting Assistant Attorney General for the Justice Department’s National Security Department, Mark J. Lesko, stated that, “Hackers-for-hire and those who otherwise support such activities in violation of US law should fully expect to be prosecuted for their criminal conduct.”

Project Raven

Project raven is an operative team that is made up of former intelligence officials. A report by Reuters on the details of the team pointed to the increased number of operatives joining this project. These operatives join the project to get paid for sharing their spying techniques with other countries. They also work with minimal oversight.

The Assistant Director of the FBI Cyber Division, Bryan Vorndran, spoke on the matter stating that such attacks posed a high level of risk and that there would be consequences for the involved parties.

“This is a clear message to anybody, including former US government employees, who had considered using cyberspace to leverage export-controlled information for the benefit of a foreign government or a foreign commercial company,” Vorndran added.

The charges levied against the three have been applauded. Lori Stroud, a former US analyst who worked with the National Security Agency, a whistleblower to Project rave, applauded the charges.

According to Stroud, one of the main factors that could accelerate how such espionage attacks are exposed was through investigative journalism. She added that justice, in this case, had been achieved because the involved expose team was timely in reporting the matter and creating awareness.

The report by Reuters on this case also stated that Project Raven was used to spy on human rights activists. Some of the activists who were victims of the project were captured by UAE officials and later tortured.

However, some former operatives denied that they knew that what they were doing was contrary to the US government. Some of these operatives stated that their superiors informed them that the US government sanctioned their work.

The three operatives who were charged recently stated that they developed and deployed a hacking software called “karma”. The software enabled the UAE to spy on Apple iPhones without asking users to follow a link to specified websites.

With the Karma software, the UAE could gain access to millions of Apple devices; hence the software worked as an intelligence-gathering system. However, the US did not give authorization to the former US government operatives to sell the Karma software to the UAE.

One of the most notable people who was hacked through Karma was a BBC television show host and a human rights activist in Yemen, who had formerly won the Nobel Prize.

Summary

Article Name

Three Former US Operatives Admit to Cyber-espionage for the UAE

Description

Reports have revealed that three former US intelligence officials have admitted to working as cyberspies for the United Arab Emirates. The espionage attacks were done in violation of the existing US hacking laws, and restrictions were put in place to prevent access to sensitive military technology.

Author

Ali Raza

Publisher Name

Koddos

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Posted by Charlie