NSA employee pleads guilty to removing classified information

NSA employee pleads guilty to removing classified information
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The Department of Justice announced Friday that a former National Security Agency (NSA) employee pleaded guilty to removing classified information from the agency's offices.

Nghia Pho, a 67-year-old living in Maryland, was a developer for the NSA's hacking corps — Tailored Access Operations (TAO). Authorities found classified documents throughout his home, according to court documents, which Pho took from work between 2010 and 2015.

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The New York Times reports that Pho is the NSA employee that was targeted in a reported incident where Russian spies hacked NSA tools using Kaspersky Lab software. That incident is believed to be among the reasons the Trump administration banned the use of Kaspersky software.

Media reports described that employee as taking classified hacking tools to work from a home computer that was loaded with Kaspersky Antivirus. According to the same reports, spies used the file scanning function of Kaspersky Antivirus to search for classified documents on all systems running the software.

Kaspersky has denied the claim of intentional espionage, noting that its applications scan for malware — including government-designed malware. The TAO tools, it said, triggered the antivirus program.

Court documents contain only sparse details about Pho's crime and do not describe the Kaspersky incident.

Pho is the third person working for the NSA to be arrested for removing classified information since October of last year — with contractor Reality Winner and NSA employee Harold Martin III preceding him.