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Swiss Spy Agency: Counter-Terrorism Secrets Stolen

Soulskill posted about a year ago | from the hard-drives-can-still-grow-legs dept.

Security 88

Rambo Tribble writes "The Swiss spy agency, NDB, reports a disaffected employee walked out with drives containing terabytes of data shared by counter-terrorism agencies in Switzerland, the U.S. and Britain. It is not yet known if he was able to pass on any information before he was apprehended. 'A European security source said investigators now believe the suspect became disgruntled because he felt he was being ignored and his advice on operating the data systems was not being taken seriously.'"

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88 comments

his advice on operating the data systems (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42184423)

probably grumbling about the security of the actual data.

Advice (5, Insightful)

ipquickly (1562169) | about a year ago | (#42184445)

If his advice included encryption and proper employee screening, maybe he was right.

Re:Advice (2)

sl4shd0rk (755837) | about a year ago | (#42184883)

Eh.. possibly not that honorable.

"the largest Swiss bank, UBS, expressed concern to authorities about a potentially suspicious attempt to set up a new numbered bank account, which then was traced to the NDB technician."

Re:Advice (4, Insightful)

Arancaytar (966377) | about a year ago | (#42185965)

Showing that the whole "secret Swiss bank account" thing only applies when you're not trying to hide it from the Swiss government. :P

Re:Advice (5, Informative)

lloydchristmas759 (1105487) | about a year ago | (#42186237)

Actually, it has been a long time since banking secrecy in Switzerland does not hold when crime is involved. When any Swiss bank suspects funds originate from criminal activities (e.g. drug or weapon trafficking, etc), it has the legal obligation to report it to Swiss financial market authority. From there, an investigation will be open. More information here [finma.ch].

However, tax evasion is not considered as a crime in Switzerland. This means that until recently, Swiss banks or the government would not disclose any information to foreign governments when only tax evasion was suspected. In the past few years though, international pressure on the Swiss government obliged it to ease the banking secrecy to the point where there is no secrecy anymore, except for permanent Swiss residents.

_news_ that matters (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42184463)

Sorry, this news is not very new: It's been in the news in october 2012.

He did have a point (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42184481)

Well, I guess no one can deny that he was right. So even if he ends up in jail, I hope he won't be going there alone!

So? (4, Insightful)

Hatta (162192) | about a year ago | (#42184509)

Somehow, I'm not terribly worried. Terrorism is a lesser threat to any of us than slipping in the shower is.

Re:So? (2)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42184631)

Somehow, I'm not terribly worried. Terrorism is a lesser threat to any of us than slipping in the shower is.

Indeed. We should close all the counter-terrorism agencies until the threat is back up to the level where people demand we do something about it...

Re:So? (1)

1s44c (552956) | about a year ago | (#42184645)

Somehow, I'm not terribly worried. Terrorism is a lesser threat to any of us than slipping in the shower is.

Indeed. We should close all the counter-terrorism agencies until the threat is back up to the level where people demand we do something about it...

Or simply stop taking showers.

Re:So? (4, Funny)

Overzeetop (214511) | about a year ago | (#42184797)

Or simply stop taking showers.

Then the terrorists will have won.

Re:So? (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42185253)

At least you'll smell like one.

Re:So? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42189359)

We will all become terrorists, seeding nasal terror in constrained places like elevators and air planes.

Re:Stop? (0)

Phrogman (80473) | about a year ago | (#42185135)

This is /.
Many of the people here would have to *start* taking showers first before they could possibly *stop* :P

Re:So? (2)

Hatta (162192) | about a year ago | (#42184855)

You assume that counter terrorism actually does something to stop terrorism. There is no evidence for that assertion.

Re:So? (0)

fustakrakich (1673220) | about a year ago | (#42185215)

There is no publicly available evidence for that assertion.

Re:So? (5, Insightful)

Hatta (162192) | about a year ago | (#42185499)

Evidence you can't see might as well not exist. Especially if the person you have to trust is the one asking for extraordinary powers.

It's quite telling that there hasn't been a successful terrorist attack in the US since 9/11. That means that the government is 100% effective at counter terrorism. When was the last time the government was 100% effective at anything? Does that not raise red flags?

Also, look at the alleged terrorists they have apprehended. Every one of them was given significant help by the government. I don't believe a single one of them would have been a credible threat without being egged on by the government. Yes, they might have had the motive, but when the government provides the means and the opportunity they're at least as guilty as the alleged terrorist.

Re:So? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42186793)

Also, look at the alleged terrorists they have apprehended. Every one of them was given significant help by the government. I don't believe a single one of them would have been a credible threat without being egged on by the government. Yes, they might have had the motive, but when the government provides the means and the opportunity they're at least as guilty as the alleged terrorist.

this.

Re:So? (1)

Larryish (1215510) | about a year ago | (#42188611)

Also I have this anti-terrorism rock for sale on eBay.

Carry it in your pocket and Abdul totally won't bomb you.

Re:So? (1)

DNS-and-BIND (461968) | about a year ago | (#42187063)

Sorry? What do we call Major Hassan, then? Oh, right...bog-standard workplace violence. I mean, the fact he was shouting "Allah Ackbar" is irrelevant.

On July 4th, 2002, a man shot up the El Al counter at LAX. There are more. 100% effective my ass.

Re:So? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42188093)

Actually we don't know what attacks may have occurred. For example we have a white fly infestation in some areas and the assumption is that these insects were pushed from islands near Florida by hurricanes. there is also some sort of plague attacking forests in the western areas. We assume that the snake head fish, the silver carp, the big head carp are all unintended releases into our waterways. Right now there is a battle to keep the silver carp out of the Great lakes. I seriously doubt that a natural spread can be prevented but I would be dead certain that pranksters would release silver carp into the Great Lakes. We have an outbreak of pythons in Florida that can not be eliminated. the poisonous Lion Fish is now near our beaches. The degree to which these issues are accidental or just due to stupidity can not be determined. And when these things do occur it can be some wise guy with a personal agenda or it could be a person seeking to do real harm.
Right now our biologists are concerned that the Burmese pythons will breed with the African rock pythons creating a very large and aggressive new strain of pythons. We have an abundance of both on the loose in Florida so the clock is ticking on that one. We also have Talapia as well as the Banana Pirahna breeding here . The meat eating types of pirahna are also caught from time to time. Natural?

Re:So? (0)

Sentrion (964745) | about a year ago | (#42185971)

And why does Switzerland care so much? Are they a target of terror? No drug lord, dictator, or terrorist would gain from attacking the nation-host of his own numbered (ergo anonymous) bank account. Not to mention that the Swiss make the world's best firearms.

Now, if Switzerland had a history of colonizing Africa or the America's, if they routinely invaded (oil-rich) sovereign nations, if they backed warlords to overthrow democratically elected leaders, if they rounded up civilians and locked them up in concentration camps, if they possessed enough WMDs to wipe out the earth's population 10 times over, if they were obliged by military alliances and treaties to defend one-third of the world's nations from any attack, then maybe I could understand if terrorist groups were motivated to target them.

Of course if they are not a threat, maybe they are a potentially easy target for conquest. But given that Alpine fortresses can house the entire population for months, every family is (or used to be) required to keep fully automatic assault rifles in their homes, every male 18-34 is obliged to serve in their military, and given the nation's longstanding traditon of fiece indepence and neutrality, I don't think there's an argument for weakness.

Re:So? (1)

tehcyder (746570) | about a year ago | (#42190443)

You assume that counter terrorism actually does something to stop terrorism. There is no evidence for that assertion.

Here in the UK there have been several court cases involving bomb plots foiled by the security services. I suppose you would say that these are all just made up?

Re:So? (1)

Johann Lau (1040920) | about a year ago | (#42185147)

until the threat is back up to the level where people demand we do something about it...

What are you even talking about? About some kind of imaginary past I presume... but care to give details?

Re:So? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42186267)

I love americans

"The threat level is high OMG"

made up bullshit to pacify the masses with fear
Its unlikely that terrorism will ever be something worth fearing. Save your fear for things worth your concern, starvation, your economy collapsing from your own ineptitude, Global warming, the mass reproduction of ignorant uneducated people breeding your country into the dumbest generation yet. Shall i go on?

Re:So? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42186719)

Back up? You realize that the War on "Terrorism" is probably driving the number of threats up not down, right? At the very least, there is no evidence to show that counter-terrorism agencies have had any positive effect on reducing "terrorism."

Assange Connection? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42186233)

What to Switzerland, Great Britain, and the United States all have in common? Coud it be Julian Assange?

Stay tuned!

The Swiss have a spy agency? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42184519)

Why, it's switzerland.

Re:The Swiss have a spy agency? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42186241)

Why, it's switzerland.

Because terrorists are always shootin' up their cheese factories...... have you not noticed all the holes?

hmmm. I can just imagine the advice... (1)

swschrad (312009) | about a year ago | (#42184587)

"Really, guys, hide it in plain sight so nobody thinks it's important. Get hot new stuff, tweet it out. Ever hear of a public Wiki?"

the big question is, do they have a capital punishment law for treason over there? or does the Swiss Army just take turns batting you around all day?

Re:hmmm. I can just imagine the advice... (1)

bug1 (96678) | about a year ago | (#42184717)

do they have a capital punishment law for treason over there?

No, they have to send them to the USA for that.

Re:hmmm. I can just imagine the advice... (1)

godel_56 (1287256) | about a year ago | (#42185065)

do they have a capital punishment law for treason over there?

No, they have to send them to the USA for that.

Or arrange for the Israelis to have them assassinated.

Re:hmmm. I can just imagine the advice... (1)

K. S. Kyosuke (729550) | about a year ago | (#42185359)

the big question is, do they have a capital punishment law for treason over there?

I believe they do it by pouring molten chocolate down your throat.

Should he get a medal or go to jail? (3)

ipquickly (1562169) | about a year ago | (#42184609)

If he did this to prove that the security measures are so lax that lives are in danger - then he very honorably sacrificed his career.
If he made a backup copy, then he should go to jail.

Re:Should he get a medal or go to jail? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42184701)

Unfortunately, this will result in a further increase in the already absurd data-handling rules/regulations. Even while a situation like this almost certainly came about from a lack of application of existing rules, the backlash will involve implementation of new and more effective productivity-killing initiatives. I do not look forward to the security briefings regarding this incident...

Re:Should he get a medal or go to jail? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42184939)

Yeah, and down with Bradley Manning too. And those fucking kids get off my lawn

Re:Should he get a medal or go to jail? (4, Informative)

timeOday (582209) | about a year ago | (#42185433)

His actions prove nothing except that a trusted senior individual with administrative rights and physical access to the system could, in fact, divulge sensitive information. That's not scandalous. In fact it is for all practical purposes unavoidable. OK, fault them for not inspecting everybody's bags on the way out of work every single day (ignoring the cost and alienation factor)... even then he could STILL have done it with a microSD under his tongue. At some point it comes down to trusting individuals.

Re:Should he get a medal or go to jail? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42186545)

How many microSD cards can you fit under YOUR tongue?

The article claims he walked out with terabytes of data, so that's like... as much as the NSA stores in a day.

And who is A. Source, anyway?

I'll give em one thing, the next time there's a leak from any of these agencies, where the information precedes today, they've established plausible deniability for everyone who's still on the inside, right?

Re:Should he get a medal or go to jail? (1)

nazsco (695026) | about a year ago | (#42187103)

wrong. his action prove only that trusted senior individual with administrative rights and physical access to the system can fall in disgrace with his peers and have any intangible charge brought as his downfall.

Re:Should he get a medal or go to jail? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42185863)

he was trying to sell data. And stopped by the bank clerk who found it fishy that he wanted a numberd account...

so, jail it is.

Re:Should he get a medal or go to jail? (1)

nazsco (695026) | about a year ago | (#42187081)

> If he made a backup copy, then he should go to jail.

nice try, RIAA.

Terrorists or "Terrorists"? (2)

crazyjj (2598719) | about a year ago | (#42184629)

Something tells me that most of this stolen info consists of data gathered on "terrorists" like movie pirates, government critics, and information leakers.

Re:Terrorists or "Terrorists"? (1)

1s44c (552956) | about a year ago | (#42184727)

Something tells me that most of this stolen info consists of data gathered on "terrorists" like movie pirates, government critics, and information leakers.

Everyone is a potential terrorist, this will likely be information on everyone collected from every government database they have access to.

It would be interesting to see what kinds of data spooks collect.

Structural problem in the new agency (1)

patella.whack (2630677) | about a year ago | (#42184633)

from TFA:

"The source said that under the NDB's present structure, its human resources staff - responsible for, among other things, ensuring the reliability and trustworthiness of the agency's personnel - is lumped together organizationally with the agency's information technology division. This potentially made it difficult or confusing for the subdivision's personnel to investigate themselves"

you'd think they'd have taken this into consideration in the first place. Rookie mistake?

Take the shot, that's an order! (0)

Impy the Impiuos Imp (442658) | about a year ago | (#42184641)

> "a disaffected employeewalked out with drives containing terabytes of data
>shared by counter-terrorism agencies in Switzerland, the U.S. and Britain."

Was it a gay middle-aged guy with dishwater blond hair?

Re:Take the shot, that's an order! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42191031)

'cause that was the plot of Skyfall...

Hard to feel sympathy ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42184763)

... for a country whose laws deliberately shield trillions of dollars from the tax agencies of other nations.

Kill 1 man and you're a murderer. Kill a million and you're a conqueror.
Hide 1 dollar and you're a tax evader. Hide a million and you're prudent.

Re:Hard to feel sympathy ... (0)

godel_56 (1287256) | about a year ago | (#42185171)

... for a country whose laws deliberately shield trillions of dollars from the tax agencies of other nations.

Kill 1 man and you're a murderer. Kill a million and you're a conqueror.

Hide 1 dollar and you're a tax evader. Hide a million and you're a super PAC.

Fixed that for you.

Re:Hard to feel sympathy ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42186989)

... for a country whose laws deliberately shield trillions of dollars from the tax agencies of other nations

Yeah, yeah, keep drinking the koolaid. You obviously missed the fact that that is mainly a US led marketing campaign to distract from the role the US and Wall Street have yet again played in causing a global crisis, but then again, that was the idea.

It's getting to be a tad repetitive: US screws up, and immediately mounts a search for others to blame. The Swiss are an easy target because they also have the annoying habit of showing up the US with respect to human rights (of which privacy happens to be one, just as extra tiny detail).

He was right to at least some degree (1)

onyxruby (118189) | about a year ago | (#42184827)

If he was able to get Terabytes of data out with impunity and walk out with it in a back pack than he was right that things weren't being done right. If they had been working with best practices he never would have been able to pull the data out.

Read the article, sounds like the only reason the data didn't go to the highest bidder is he hadn't sold it yet. They said he was disgruntled, perhaps he was willing to sacrifice his career to make a point about things not being done right?

He'll get (and should get) time in prison for this and he's a fool for having done it. Lesson to learn from this for those new in their career and who see problems and find management unwilling to do anything about them. Document them in an email at some point to make sure you can't be blamed for ignoring an issue. Once you've done that drop it and let it go, because it isn't worth your career or prison time to prove your right. Let it go, let it go.

Re:He was right to at least some degree (1)

TapeCutter (624760) | about a year ago | (#42185599)

Any of the presidents numerous body guards could assassinate him at any time, does that mean things aren't being done right?

Shoot him... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42184881)

...make an example of scum like him.

Q: What in 1 shouldn't lead to 2? (1)

zx2c4 (716139) | about a year ago | (#42184923)

1: "The suspect in the spy data theft worked for the NDB, or Federal Intelligence Service, which is part of Switzerland's Defense Ministry, for about eight years."
2: "He was described by a source close to the investigation as a "very talented" technician and senior enough to have "administrator rights," giving him unrestricted access to most or all of the NDB's networks, including those holding vast caches of secret data."

A: "for about eight years" --> "unrestricted access to most or all of [...] vast caches of secret data"

Eight years? That's it? Really?

Secret service was lucky (1)

markus_baertschi (259069) | about a year ago | (#42185097)

This event dates from late September. As far as I know he was caught, before he could sell anything.

But, the Swiss Secret Service was lucky: The guy was caught because his bank became suspicious when he wanted to set up bank accounts to receive the future price for the loot.

The guy essentially walked out of the place with disk drives full of data. As he was the IT maintenance guy, he could pull this off without anybody getting suspicious. If your IT guy replaces 'broken' disk drives, everything is ok, other employees thought. As Switzerland is small, that department was small too, so there was a lack of resources.

Markus

Re:Secret service was lucky (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42186045)

Right. Like he wasn't contacted first, paid, got the data out and delivered immediately.

That's not an option okay?

Re:Secret service was lucky (1)

AHuxley (892839) | about a year ago | (#42186315)

Switzerland had a walk in who (gave/sold?) the Soviets the bunker locations and moblization timetables. He was caught.
Switzerland is very small at the planning level of its structure. Very few make it up the chain of command with the correct trust and the huge number of days training needed vs having a day job.
They can profile the family structure and training of their top people over many years but "IT maintenance guy" are what treated as just "technician" staff? vs the quality of life that the officer class enjoy?
The other fun aspect is the amount of training top Swiss officers did with the top US war colleges :) Got to wonder how much 'gossip' they bring back home and write up for internal Swiss use :)

Die Hard (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42185103)

Wasn't that the plot of Die Hard 4?

Re:Die Hard (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42186357)

"Swiss Spy Agency: Counter-Terrorism" sounds like a best-selling FPS game to me.

So... (3, Funny)

JestersGrind (2549938) | about a year ago | (#42185107)

The Swiss security is similar to their cheese?

Re:So... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42188141)

Sure. Some is firm, some is old, some is new, some is soft, some has giant holes.

But at least it is not usually accompanied by much unnecessary theater...

Re:So... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42193241)

Don't mock that which is holey.

checks need 2 signatures, why not mv/cp/etc? (2)

Yakasha (42321) | about a year ago | (#42185183)

Most companies require a second signature on checks with a high enough dollar amount, so why not a similar system for servers?

Simply list secured directories/files and secured output devices (printers, usb, etc). If you try to move/copy/edit anything from a secured directory or to a secured device, your command gets put in a queue and waits for a second user to ok it.
Is there anything like this available already?

Re:checks need 2 signatures, why not mv/cp/etc? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42185905)

All you need is to encrypt the files.
If you ensure that the key to read the file and the file itself cannot both be accessed at the same time by the same user id, you have the same system.

That does mean you need the second person to physically log in (either be physically present with their RSA token, or VPN'd into the box).
This would be ridiculously cumbersome, but would prevent this sort of thing.

Re:checks need 2 signatures, why not mv/cp/etc? (1)

nazsco (695026) | about a year ago | (#42187157)

the point of requiring two signatures/keys/whatever IS to be ridiculously cumbersome

Re:checks need 2 signatures, why not mv/cp/etc? (1)

c++0xFF (1758032) | about a year ago | (#42186393)

My college set up something like that for password resets. Two computing center student employees could type in their own passwords and the username of another student to reset that student's password. If I remember right, it didn't work on faculty accounts and in a few other situations.

Re:checks need 2 signatures, why not mv/cp/etc? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42205641)

That last part was probably deliberate fwiw...

Secret Data Network? (1)

dgharmon (2564621) | about a year ago | (#42185677)

"The suspect [had] unrestricted access to most or all of the NDB's networks, including those holding vast caches of secret data".

Did no-one in this self-described Federal Intelligence Service notice him downloading terrabytes of data?

Re:Secret Data Network? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42186935)

No. Because they were looking for terabytes worth of data, which is an official SI multiplier. I'm still trying to work out what those terrabytes are that Reuters was talking about..

Hell hath no fury like a passive agressive IT guy. (1)

conspirator23 (207097) | about a year ago | (#42186053)

'A European security source said investigators now believe the suspect became disgruntled because he felt he was being ignored and his advice on operating the data systems was not being taken seriously.'"

Okay poindexter, what exactly was the issue? Some non-technical middle manager didn't understand the overarching brilliance of your recommended filesystem? Afraid the key length is too short? Too much Linux? Not enough Linux? Welcome to the real world, where your temper tantrum effects no change for anyone else but you. Hope your issue wasn't genuinely important, you'll have a hard time making your case from prison. /facepalm.

Re:Hell hath no fury like a passive agressive IT g (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42188109)

I just love that you used "effect" as a verb - and it was correct. Not something you see every day!

Swiss counter-terrorism definition (1)

AtomicJake (795218) | about a year ago | (#42186337)

Swiss counter-terrorism includes probably a list of tax agents of foreign countries (such as the USA, most EU countries, and other countries looking for black money of their citizens).

Sensitive IT Guys (1)

CHIT2ME (2667601) | about a year ago | (#42186553)

You IT guys seem so sensitive! Makes this old Marine Corps Vetaren want to puke! First, debrief the traitor. Who knows maybe his advice on operating the data systems may yield something. Then, throw his a$$ into solitary in a super max prison for 10 to 15 years and see if it cures his disgruntled-ness!!!

Moral of the story (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42187013)

Put a device in your IT guys to remote kill when they inevitably get out of hand.

Old news (1)

bradley13 (1118935) | about a year ago | (#42189557)

This is old news, geez. Here's a quick summary of the facts:

- The Swiss intelligence agency had pathetic security. This guy was an IT guy with far too much direct access to data. Second, there was no policy in place restricting (and checking) what employees could carry in and out of the building. So he duplicated the contents of numerous entire disks, and walk out the door carrying the copies.

- The guy was an idiot. He copied terabytes of data, figuring to get rich quick. But he had no idea how to sell the stuff, so he apparently walked into some random foreign embassy and asked if they wanted to buy the stuff. The embassy apparently quietly informed the Swiss government, and the guy was arrested.

- Because of the way it went down, apparently there is little doubt that he never managed to sell anything. I.e., no data was compromised. This being entirely due to dumb luck, or rather, to the stupidity of the criminal.

Re:Old news (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42189687)

The reason that this old news shows up now is that the minister responsible for the military dept. then had to be elected today by the parliament as the president of the federal coucil for 2013. Recalling this story could contribute to lower the election score of the minister.

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