Tags: nsa | snowden | spying

NSA Warned of Security Breaches 17 Years Before Snowden

By    |   Monday, 06 Jan 2014 01:59 PM

The National Security Agency was warned about the risks of sensitive information being vulnerable to serious security breaches 17 years before Edward Snowden carried out the massive leak of top secret information on the agency's phone and Internet surveillance program.

The warnings appeared in a 1996 internal publication by the National Security Agency which was released Sunday. Some experts question whether the agency ever addressed the issues highlighted in the article, The Washington Free Beacon reports.

"A relatively small number of systems administrators are able to read, copy, move, alter, and destroy almost every piece of classified information handled by given agency or organization," said an intelligence analyst in the information system security officer's threat analysis division, according to the Free Beacon.

The article had been written following a security breach at the agency involving a contractor who was caught accessing restricted classified files.

"It seems amazing that so few are allowed to control so much—apparently with little or no supervision or security audits," noted the author whose name was redacted in the declassified version of the article in Cryptologic Quarterly.

"From an individual's standpoint…access to electronic versions of classified documents is out of control," the author added.

The concern focused on the possibility of foreign intelligence services recruiting a systems administrator within the agency, rather than a case similar to Snowden's involving an
internal leak by a rogue employee. In particular, that article noted that during the Cold War, Soviet intelligence forces targeted U.S. intelligence agents who had access to information that could be used to decode intelligence dispatches, according to the Free Beacon.

"Communicators of the past usually sent only relatively short messages and 'finished' documents, but today's system administrators can obtain full-length copies of entire reports, including draft versions, as well as informal email messages, electronic calendar appointments, and a wide variety of other data," the author wrote.

Security experts have questioned whether throughout the intervening years, the NSA took adequate account of the changing nature of security risks with the advent of the Internet, as operatives gained access to vast amounts of information with little oversight put in place, according to the Free Beacon.

"Snowden is a traitor but he had (unwitting) accomplices who either ignored implementing existing security measures or failed to establish the most obvious and rudimentary security plans for contractors," Gary Schmitt, co-director of the Marilyn Ware Center for Security Studies at the American Enterprise Institute, told the Free Beacon.

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The National Security Agency was warned about the risks of sensitive information being vulnerable to serious security breaches 17 years before Edward Snowden carried out the massive leak of top secret information on the agency's phone and Internet surveillance program.
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2014-59-06
Monday, 06 Jan 2014 01:59 PM
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