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Swiss spy warning sent to CIA, MI6 after secret data theft

Swiss spy warning: A disgruntled IT technician at the Swiss intelligence service stole terabytes of secret data from computers. The Swiss spy agency sent a warning to the CIA, MI6 and other intelligence services about the breach of security. 

By Mark HosenballReuters / December 5, 2012



Zurich

Secret information on counter-terrorism shared by foreign governments may have been compromised by a massive data theft by a senior IT technician for the NDB, Switzerland's intelligence service, European national security sources said.

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Intelligence agencies in the United States and Britain are among those who were warned by Swiss authorities that their data could have been put in jeopardy, said one of the sources, who asked for anonymity when discussing sensitive information.

Swiss authorities arrested the technician suspected in the data theft last summer amid signs he was acting suspiciously. He later was released from prison while a criminal investigation by the office of Switzerland's Federal Attorney General continues, according to two sources familiar with the case.

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The suspect's name was not made public. Swiss authorities believe he intended to sell the stolen data to foreign officials or commercial buyers.

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.

Swiss news reports and the sources close to the investigation said that investigators believe the technician downloaded terabytes, running into hundreds of thousands or even millions of printed pages, of classified material from the Swiss intelligence service's servers onto portable hard drives. He then carried them out of government buildings in a backpack.

One of the sources familiar with the investigation said that intelligence services like the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency and Britain's Secret Intelligence Service, also known as MI6, routinely shared data on counter-terrorism and other issues with the NDB. Swiss authorities informed U.S. and British agencies that such data could have been compromised, the source said.

News of the theft of intelligence data surfaced with Switzerland's reputation for secrecy and discretion in government and financial affairs already under assault.

Swiss authorities have been investigating, and in some cases have charged, whistleblowers and some European government officials for using criminal methods to acquire confidential financial data about suspected tax evaders from Switzerland's traditionally secretive banks.

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.
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.

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