You may have heard about the Vault 7 leaks from WikiLeaks back in 2017, where I was reporting about it back then... a cache of tools and exploits that the US government-funded CIA (Central Intelligence Agency) use to hack into everyone's computers, iPhones and Android devices, Samsung smart TVs and more.
Well, a jury in New York convicted 33-year-old ex-CIA engineer Joshua Schulte on 9 charges, which has now become the single largest leak in CIA history. Schulte worked inside of the Operations Support Branch (OSB) of the CIA, where he reportedly built hacking tools, turning prototypes that he was working on into real exploits that were capable of monitoring, or stealing information from the device that it was on.
Investigators secured evidence against Schulte through his own holes in his personal security, where the ex-CIA engineer stored the passwords for his accounts on his phones, and then investigators used that to access his encrypted storage.
- Read more: WikiLeaks: Apple Mac, iPhone firmware hacked by CIA
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- Read more: Vladimir Putin says that the Internet is a 'CIA project'
The FBI was bought in, where for some insane reason went and purchased a brand new laptop that was used to download the Vault 7 cache over Wi-Fi at Starbucks, rendering the new laptop officially classified, immediately. The laptop was taken directly to an FBI supervisor's office, and could only be accessed by someone with Top Secret clearance.
Insane reason: they're the FBI, it involves the CIA... surely the entire US government would use all of its tools and access to Schulte and Vault 7. But no, they needed to go buy a new laptop and sit at Starbucks on their Wi-Fi, cos reasons.
The Verge had a statement from CIA spokesperson Tammy Thorp, who said: "Today's verdict affirms that maintaining the security of our nation's cyber capabilities is of the utmost importance. It's critical to the security of the American people, and it's critical to our advantage against adversaries abroad. As set forth in the trial, unauthorized disclosures not only jeopardize US personnel and operations, but also equip our adversaries with tools and information to do us harm".
US Attorney for the Southern District of New York Damian Williams said after the verdict: "When Schulte began to harbor resentment toward the CIA, he covertly collected those tools and provided them to WikiLeaks, making some of our most critical intelligence tools known to the public - and therefore, our adversaries. Schulte has been convicted for one of the most brazen and damaging acts of espionage in American history".
The US government tried to prosecute Schulte back in 2020, which ended in a mistrial as the jury convicted him on contempt of court charges, as well as lying to FBI investigators, but couldn't agree on the rest of it. This started a second trial, the one that has just ended, where Schulte represented himself.
Just like in the movies and TV shows, Schulte was reportedly "possessing and transporting child pornography" which are some of the other charges he's still facing, but sentencing is still to come. The charges Schulte was convicted on were related to the gathering, stealing, and transmitting classified information, as well as obstruction of justice over lying to FBI investigators about it.