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December 5, 2012

U.S., U.K. Victims of Swiss Spy Data Breach

The United States and Britian have been warned by Swiss authorities that top-secret counter-terrorism data they shared with foreign governments has been stolen.

A senior IT technician for the NDB, Switzerland’s intelligence service, is suspected last summer of downloading terabytes of counter-terrorism information shared between the NDB, Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and MI6, Reuters reported Dec. 4.

It is believed the material downloaded from the Swiss intelligence service’s servers could comprise millions of printed pages of classified material. It is also believed the information was downloaded onto portable hard drives and then carried out of the government building in a backpack. Authorities believe the technician planned to sell the data to “foreign officials and commercial buyers.”

Although the authorities believe they arrested the suspect and seized the information before it was sold, they are not certain. The suspect has since been released pending a criminal investigation by the office of Switzerland’s Federal Attorney General, sources told Reuters.

Investigators suspect the technician was miffed because he believed his advice on operating the data systems was not being taken seriously, sources said.

The suspect was described as a “very talented” technician with “administrator rights,” which means he had unlimited access to most or all of the NDB’s networks, a source close to the investigation told Reuters.

The source also revealed that the authorities believe the suspect displayed classic warning signs that should have been recognized by his bosses or security officials. In fact, according to Reuters’ report, the man became so fed up earlier this year, he neglected to come to work.

Swiss news reports, however, indicated the NDB did not notice anything was wrong until a Swiss bank reported a questionable attempt to set up a numbered bank account, which then was traced to the NDB technician.

Reuters indicated a Swiss parliamentary committee is now conducting its own investigation into the occurrence. A report is expected next spring.