Former U.S. intelligence operatives face federal charges after allegedly working as cyber mercenaries in the United Arab Emirates. Men, they all are Former National Security Agency employees accused of helping UAE government break through computer systems around the world, including some in the United States, just unsealed court documents require.
Marc Baier, 49, Ryan Adams, 34, and Daniel Gericke, 40, have been charged with violating federal laws relating to computer fraud and export regulations, the Justice Department said. it was announced on Tuesday.
Between 2016 and 2019, the trio worked as senior managers at Dark Matter, an Emirati cybersecurity company. The team worked on a renovated castle in Abu Dhabi part of the operation called “Project Raven”, which almost entirely employed former US intelligence officers. Their services have helped the Middle Eastern monarchy conduct hacking operations against its perceived enemies, including activists, political rivals and journalists, Reuters reported earlier.
Part of the services provided by the Americans was the development of two zero-click exploit attacks — sophisticated cyber-intrusion techniques that could compromise the security flaws implicit in popular mobile operating systems. Such attacks, which can be reported even unnecessarily phish targets, are similar to those he uses the infamous Israeli spyware company NSO Group. The exploits allowed Dark Matter employees to hack devices and “illegally obtain and use access data for Internet accounts issued by U.S. companies, and to gain unauthorized access to computers, such as cell phones, around the world, including the United States,” DOJ claims.
The “Raven,” which lasted for years, eventually came to light, partly through a whistle shot.
To settle the charges against them, the men agreed to pay large fines, cumulatively amounting to $ 1,685 million. Penalties are part of a deferred prosecution agreement, which effectively allows them to avoid prison sentence.
However, court documents clearly show that what Bayer, Adams, and Gericke did was manifestly illegal, noting that defendants “used illicit, fraudulent, and criminal means, including the use of advanced covert hacking systems that used computer-aided computer exploits.” and elsewhere, to gain unauthorized access to secure computers in the United States and elsewhere and to illegally obtain information, materials, documents, records, data, and personal information. ”
“This agreement is the first solution of its kind in the investigation of two different types of criminal activity: the provision of unlicensed export-controlled defense services in support of computer networks, and a commercial company that creates, maintains and operates systems specifically designed to allow others to access data without authorization. computers around the world, including the United States, ”said Acting Assistant Attorney General Mark J. Lesko of the Department of Homeland Security’s Department of Homeland Security. “Hired hackers and those who otherwise support such activities in violation of U.S. law should fully expect to be prosecuted for their criminal behavior.”
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