Nghia Hoang Pho, former NSA employee, pleads guilty to retaining top-secret intelligence

Nghia Hoang Pho, former NSA employee, pleads guilty to retaining top-secret intelligence

A National Security Agency employee who worked at home without authorization on sensitive hacking tools pleaded guilty Friday to violating the Espionage Act - a security breach that the agency was tipped off to by Israeli cyberspies. The Vietnam-born American citizen, who lives in Ellicott City, Maryland, faces roughly six to eight years in the clink, with sentencing set for April next year.

The US government didn't see it that way and accused the Russian antivirus vendor of conspiring with Russian intelligence to actively search computers for classified material on objective.

Pho, who was born in Vietnam and is a naturalized US citizen, is free pending his sentencing, which is set for April 6, Bonsib said.

As a software developer working for the NSA's "Tailored Access Operations Unit", a group that is widely renowned for its ability to access foreign computer networks and playing a role in the hunt for Osama bin Laden, Pho reportedly took classified documents and writings from 2010 to 2015 and kept them at his home, according to prosecutors cited in a New York Times report. It is further alleged by USA government sources that Russian spies were able to get their hands on the top-secret code via the antivirus package, although Kaspersky denies any direct involvement.

The Department of Homeland Security in September ordered federal agencies to start removing Kaspersky software from their computers.

Kaspersky Lab is suspected of being involved with Russian intelligence.

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The court documents don't mention it, but Pho appears to be the NSA employee at the heart of the spying accusations swirling around the Moscow-based security firm Kaspersky Lab.

An NSA hacker has admitted taking home copies of classified software exploits - understood to be the cyber-weapons slurped from an agency worker's home Windows PC by Kaspersky Labs' antivirus.

Kaspersky declined to comment. Most notably, former NSA contractor Edward Snowden disclosed a cache of classified material in 2013 exposing USA government surveillance programs.

"Any conversations regarding this case will be made in the courtroom during the sentencing", his attorney, Robert Bonsib, told Reuters. Former NSA contractor Harold Martin was indicted in February on charges related to hoarding secrets at his home near agency headquarters in Ft.

Reality Winner, 25, a former Air Force linguist who worked as an NSA contractor at a facility in Augusta, Georgia, was charged in June with copying a classified USA report and mailing it to a news organization.

Both have pleaded not guilty, and are being held by authorities as they await trial for their alleged offenses.

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