Although the documents don't make it clear exactly what specific classified data and records were taken - beyond hard copy and digital files stored in Pho's residence - several earlier reports have pointed to hacking tools developed for offensive operations launched by the NSA, such as targeting foreign networks and systems for conducting surveillance.
Pho is the same former NSA employee implicated in previous reports involving the Russian government and Kaspersky Lab, a Moscow-based antivirus vendor accused of being a conduit for the Putin administration's worldwide espionage efforts, both The Times and Reuters reported Friday.
Nghia Hoang Pho, 67, admitted Tuesday to unauthorized possession of classified documents relating to national defense, according to documents the Department of Justice released Friday. The aggressive hacking of American targets by the Russian government, including the Democratic National Committee during last year's election campaign, is a high-priority concern for the United States, and forensic information from Mr. Pho's computer might provide useful clues.
An elite National Security Agency hacker has pleaded guilty to illegally taking his work home - and in the process, to have inadvertently provided the Russian government with highly sensitive USA hacking tools. That analysis matched the new code with code Kaspersky had previously connected to what it has nicknamed the Equation Group - widely believed to be to NSA's elite Tailored Access Operations division, where Pho worked. The material is reportedly believed to have been stolen from his computer by Russian hackers exploiting his personal antivirus software. Pho was involved in "highly classified" projects and had access to government computers.
Pho faces up to 10 years in prison, according to the Justice Department.
The guilty plea said that between 2010 and March 2015, Pho removed and retained at his home paper and digital copies of USA government documents and writings containing national defense information. "Pho removed and retained USA government documents and writings that contained national defense information, including information classified as Top Secret and Sensitive Compartmented Information".
Bonsib declined to answer questions about Kaspersky.
The Times reported that Pho is now free, while awaiting sentencing in April 2018.
It appears he was charged in March 2015.
Reality Leigh Winner, a Texas native who had been stationed in Maryland, was charged in June with sending a classified report to a news organization. Former NSA contractor Harold Martin was indicted in February on charges related to hoarding secrets at his home near agency headquarters in Ft.