Three former members of the U.S. intelligence community agreed to pay $1,685,000 in penalties Tuesday to resolve charges filed by the Department of Justice alleging they hacked U.S. devices on behalf of a foreign government.
Marc Baier, Ryan Adams, and Daniel Gericke settled charges alleging they carried out hacking operations and provided hacking services for the United Arab Emirates (U.A.E.) from 2016 to 2019 while working at a U.A.E. cyber firm, according to the DOJ. These services included developing “zero-click” spyware, which allows users to remotely access data on a device through files attached to messages without the recipient clicking on a link.
The defendants used “illicit, fraudulent, and criminal means” to hack into protected computers in the U.S. and illegally obtain private information, documents, and records, according to court documents. These services were performed on behalf of the U.A.E. for the defendants’ own personal gain, documents show.
“The goals of the conspiracy were to obtain financial profit and personal compensation,” the charges read. (RELATED: Massive Spyware Ploy Targets Google Users Who Downloaded Free Add-Ons To Chrome Web Browsers)
The defendants illegally accessed smartphones and computers and stole passwords, identifying information, and user data from several U.S. companies, according to the charges. The men also allegedly intentionally damaged at least ten computers.
Baier, Adams and Gericke were charged with conspiring to provide “defense services” to foreign governments without obtaining the proper licenses as well as conspiring to commit access device fraud and other computer hacking offenses. They agreed to pay $750,000, $600,000, and $335,000, respectively, to settle the charges, and the three forfeited their security clearances, according to the DOJ.
“This is a clear message to anybody, including former U.S. government employees, who had considered using cyberspace to leverage export-controlled information for the benefit of a foreign government or a foreign commercial company – there is risk, and there will be consequences,” said Bryan Vorndran, assistant director of the FBI’s Cyber Division, in the DOJ press release.
“Zero-click” technology was used to compromise Apple devices earlier this week, and the spyware has been deployed against dozens of journalists and activists working under repressive regimes.
The Department of Justice did not immediately respond to the Daily Caller News Foundation’s request for additional comment.
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