Report: Snowden didn’t need to ‘hack’ the NSA to get files

Josh Peterson Tech Editor
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Former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden did not need to deploy sophisticated hacking techniques to access the estimated 20,000 files he stole from the agency.

Snowden’s privileges as a systems administrator allowed him the ability to inconspicuously access and extract classified information not even available to NSA analysts, reports NBC News.

It was previously speculated that Snowden, who was trained during his time at Dell to be a government hacker, used those skills to navigate the NSA’s networks undetected.

Systems administrators, however, often have access to every electronic file in a company, as Snowden did.

He could also access the agency’s intranet, NSAnet, away from the eyes of supervisors at NSA headquarters at Ft. Meade, Md. undetected, NBC News reports.

Coupled with his ability to access the network remotely from Hawaii while at Booz Allen Hamilton, and from Japan while at Dell, Snowden could remove files and place them on USB thumb drives without raising suspicion.

NSA Director Gen. Keith Alexander told an audience at Fordham University in early August that the 40,000 person agency planned to cut 90 percent of its 1,000 systems administrators — many who are contractors like Snowden — and using machines to fulfill the role.

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