The classified document leaker Edward Snowden broke into the National Security Agency’s trove of spy data using cheap tools, according to a report in the New York Times.
Snowden used web crawler software to “scrape” data from the NSA’s computer networks, according to an unidentified senior intelligence official interviewed by the newspaper.
“We do not believe this was an individual sitting at a machine and downloading this much material in sequence,” the official said. The process, he added, was “quite automated.”
That’s surprising because the NSA is charged with protecting the country’s military intelligence from cyber attacks. Snowden’s attack wasn’t that sophisticated. And it was hardly the first, as it came three years after the WikiLeaks disclosures showed the vulnerability of government networks.
Snowden was working on the inside as a tech contractor. He’s now in exile in Russia, and his disclosures about how the agency spied on Americans have been highly damaging to the intelligence agency and the credibility of the federal government.
Snowden accessed 1.7 million files, and officials even questioned him about it while his work was in progress. Snowden reportedly responded that he was a systems administrator and was just conducting routine maintenance work. He found that while the agency had strong protection against outside attacks, it had rudimentary protections against inside attacks. The NSA declined to comment to the New York Times.