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Reuters: Snowden accessed some classified US info by persuading NSA coworkers to provide passwords

Posted Nov 8, 2013 4:55 PM CDT
By Martha Neil

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Even at one of the top U.S. security watchdogs, some workers may not be following basic rules to safeguard employer data.

Edward Snowden, who was granted temporary asylum in Russia after exposing secret mass surveillance programs he learned about while working as a contract employee for the National Security Agency, accessed information he wasn't entitled to see through a simple ruse, Reuters reports.

Unwitting fellow workers for the NSA provided Snowden their passwords when he asked for them, allowing him to access material that otherwise would have been blocked, the news agency says, relying on unidentified sources.

One source said what Reuters describes as "a handful" of fellow workers who gave their passwords to Snowden were identified, questioned and, as the news agency puts it, "removed from their assignments" during an investigation by the U.S. into the extent of the Snowden leaks.

Another source said Snowden may have persuaded up to 25 fellow workers at a NSA facility in Hawaii to provide their passwords by telling them he needed access because he was a computer systems administrator.

The claimed security breach by fellow workers highlights that the NSA, like other employers, needs to upgrade efforts to protect confidential data, according to the article. It notes that the the Senate Intelligence Committee has green-lighted a bill to spend just under $100 million to install software to detect efforts by workers at U.S. security agencies to obtain material they are not authorized to see.

"What agencies are having a hard time grappling with is the insider threat, the idea that the guy in the next cubicle may not be reliable," secrecy expert Steven Aftergood of the Federation of American Scientists told Reuters.

The "classified world" makes "a sharp distinction between insiders and outsiders," Aftergood says. "If you've been cleared, and especially if you've been polygraphed, you're an insider and you are presumed to be trustworthy."

See also:

ABAJournal.com: "As Eric Holder promises justice, Snowden may have more US secrets stored on thumb drive"

ABAJournal.com: "Snowden blasts US, threatens new leaks; handy map shows his narrowing asylum options"

CNN: "Report: NSA, GCHQ among worst surveillance offenders, Snowden says"

New York Times (reg. req.): "British Intelligence Chiefs Say Leaks by Snowden Hurt Security"

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