Three former U.S. intelligence officers have admitted to conducting hacking operations for the United Arab Emirates. The operatives said they also provided advanced computer hacking technologies for those operations, which were done for the UAE government.
The three men, identified as Marc Baier, Ryan Adams, and Daniel Gericke, had worked as senior managers for a UAE-based company that was working for the government. Prosecutors alleged that the men were involved in hacking and intelligence-gathering operations that included breaking into computers in the U.S. and other countries.
Prosecutors said the three men left a U.S.-based tech company that was conducting operations in the UAE. They were reportedly offered "significant increases" in pay to join a UAE-based company. Court documents did not name the companies involved.
Former National Security Agency employee, Lori Stroud, claimed that the three men had worked for U.S.-based company CyberPoint before they transferred to a UAE state-owned company called DarkMatter.
Prosecutors said that during their tenure, between 2016 and 2019, the three men greatly expanded the capabilities and sophistication of the UAE-owned company. This included providing the company with advanced exploits that are able to break into computers and mobile devices anywhere in the world.
To avoid criminal charges, the three defendants had reached an agreement with prosecutors, which was described by the Justice Department as the first of its kind. Under the deal, the former operatives agreed to pay a settlement of $1.68 million. They are also being forced to cooperate with the Justice Department's investigation into the matter and sever any ties with UAE government agencies.
The Justice Department said they have agreed to halt prosecuting the defendants if they comply with those terms over the next three years. The agency said this was the "first-of-its-kind resolution" to a problem that is increasingly becoming commonplace with former intelligence and military officers.
The acting assistant attorney general of the Justice Department's national security division, Mark Lesko, warned that individuals who support such criminal activities, including providing unlicensed technology for hacking, could still face prosecution.
"Hackers-for-hire and those who otherwise support such activities in violation of U.S. law should fully expect to be prosecuted for their criminal conduct," Lesko said.