On Thursday, former CIA hacker, Joshua Schulte was sentenced to 40 years in prison for causing a massive data leak. On top of that, after he’s released, he’ll be subject to a lifetime of supervision. As per reports, he worked for the Center for Cyber Intelligence from 2012 to 2016.
It is estimated that the 35-year-old accused shared 8,761 files to Wikileaks in 2017.
He not only leaked a bunch of classified hacking tools to Wikileaks but was also found to be in possession of child abuse media.
In the words of the prosecutor, “tens of thousands of images of child sexual abuse materials” were found when his apartment was searched. Prosecutors have labeled this one of the most “brazen” and biggest data leaks in history.
He was also accused of leaking CIA’s “Vault 7” tools which allowed them to hack into Apple and Android devices during overseas spy operations and transform any internet TV into a hidden listening device.
Schulte obviously denied all the allegations. He even went on to say that both the FBI and CIA are trying to make him a scapegoat for the public release of a trove of CIA secrets by WikiLeaks in 2017.
But he was ultimately found guilty of all the allegations in all three federal trials conducted in 2020, 2022, and 2023 respectively. The charges against him include espionage, contempt of court for making false statements to the FBI, possession of child pornography, and illegal hacking.
Joshua Schulte betrayed his country by committing some of the most brazen, heinous crimes of espionage in American history.Damian Williams, US Attorney
What Exactly Happened?
It all began in 2016 when Schulte leaked stolen data to Wikileaks. And in 2017, Wikileaks began publishing data from the leak. Even then he was accused of the leak but he managed to escape by lying to the FBI and the CIA. It is believed that his motive was anger; seemingly over a workplace dispute.
He was failing to meet deadlines at work and one of his projects was so far behind the timeline, that it infamously earned him the nickname “Drifting Deadline”.
He also had some issues with a colleague and the management. Schulte also filed a restraining order against the said colleague in a state court following which they both had to be transferred.
But although his initial intention was to seek revenge from those who mocked him at his workplace, he ended up severely compromising national security.
The whole leak not only cost the CIA millions of dollars but also exposed many secrets, tools, and resources of the agency. On top of that, it also impaired their ability to collect intelligence data on political opponents and adversaries.
Although the accused has been behind bars since 2018, it hasn’t stopped him from trying to leak more data from the prison. He somehow smuggled in a phone and drafted a tweet containing CIA cyber groups and information about CIA cyber tools.
It was sent to a reporter and Schulte smartly concealed his identity was taking the name Jason Bourne (a fake intelligence operative).