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Ex-NSA staffer sentenced to more than five years in jail for taking work home

IF YOUR MANAGER is pressuring you to take work home with you, you now have a ready-made excuse as to why that isn’t a good idea. Ex-NSA employee Nghia Hoang Pho has been sentenced to five and a half years for taking top-secret defence files home – an act which ultimately saw US secrets being leaked.

68-year-old Pho maintained in court that he only took the files home to work on out of the office, with the aim of getting a promotion. If this was the case, it turned out to be a catastrophic error of judgement, as the Kaspersky Lab antivirus software on his computer hoovered up top secret information.

Whether the reasoning for that is because the software liked or didn’t like what it saw depends on who you believe, with Kaspersky claiming the NSA code was lifted for legitimate security analysis, rather than on behalf of the Russian government. Either way, it triggered a chain reaction which culminated in Kaspersky software being banned from government computers.

However the secret information got into the wrong hands, in the court’s eyes the root cause was the same. By taking the work home for five years, Pho was nonchalantly risking national security because, unsurprisingly, your off-the-shelf antivirus software isn’t quite as effective as the NSA’s own solutions.

“Removing and retaining such highly classified material displays a total disregard of Pho’s oath and promise to protect our nation’s national security,” said Maryland district attorney Robert Hur.

 “As a result of his actions, Pho compromised some of our country’s most closely held types of intelligence, and forced NSA to abandon important initiatives to protect itself and its operational capabilities, at great economic and operational cost.”

Despite this, the five-and-a-half-year sentence is actually quite a bit lower than the maximum punishment of 10, and even the eight which prosecutors were pushing for. All the same, the moral of the story is don’t take your work home with you. It can end very badly. µ

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Source : Inquirer

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Founder and Editor-in-Chief of 'Professional Hackers India'. Technology Evangelist, Security Analyst, Cyber Security Expert, PHP Developer and Part time hacker.

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