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Ex-CIA Employee Charged With Leaking Agency's Hacking Tools

A former employee of the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) has been charged with stealing classified national defense information from the agency and sharing it with WikiLeaks.

The Department of Justice announced on Monday that Joshua Adam Schulte, 29, of New York, New York, had been charged in a 13-count indictment. The indictment does not specifically name WikiLeaks, but the media revealed last month that authorities had been preparing to charge Schulte for providing WikiLeaks the CIA hacking tools that were published by the whistleblower organization as part of its Vault 7 leak.

Schulte worked for the NSA for five months in 2010 as a systems engineer. He then joined the CIA, where he worked as a software engineer until November 2016, when he moved to New York City and started working as a software engineer for Bloomberg.

The man reportedly became the main suspect for the Vault 7 leaks one week after WikiLeaks started releasing files. However, when investigators searched his apartment and devices, they uncovered a file sharing server hosting child pornography.

Schulte was charged on three counts of receipt, possession and transportation of child pornography in August 2017 and was released the following month. He was arrested again in December for violating the conditions of his release and he has been in custody ever since.

Schulte has now been charged with illegal gathering of national defense information; illegal transmission of lawfully possessed national defense information; illegal transmission of unlawfully possessed national defense information; unauthorized access to a computer to obtain classified information; theft of Government property; unauthorized access of a computer to obtain information from a Department or Agency of the United States; and causing transmission of a harmful computer program, information, code, or command.

The list of charges also includes making material false statements to representatives of the FBI; obstruction of justice; receipt of child pornography; possession of child pornography; transportation of child pornography; and copyright infringement. If convicted, the man could spend decades behind bars.

The hacking-related charges involve Schulte’s activities inside the CIA’s networks while being employed by the agency.

"Joshua Schulte, a former employee of the CIA, allegedly used his access at the agency to transmit classified material to an outside organization,” said Geoffrey S. Berman, US Attorney for the Southern District of New York. “During the course of this investigation, federal agents also discovered alleged child pornography in Schulte’s New York City residence. We and our law enforcement partners are committed to protecting national security information and ensuring that those trusted to handle it honor their important responsibilities. Unlawful disclosure of classified intelligence can pose a grave threat to our national security, potentially endangering the safety of Americans.”

Schulte previously pleaded not guilty to the child pornography-related charges, claiming that up to 100 people had access to the server storing illegal content. Investigators, on the other hand, claim they have proof Schulte had been aware of the presence of the files.

As for leaking CIA hacking tools, Schulte told the press last month that the FBI likely suspected him due to the fact that he had left the CIA on poor terms just months before the Vault 7 leak started.

Related: NSA Contractor Charged With Leaking Russia Hacking Report

Related: NSA Contractor Pleads Guilty in Embarrassing Leak Case

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Eduard Kovacs (@EduardKovacs) is a contributing editor at SecurityWeek. He worked as a high school IT teacher for two years before starting a career in journalism as Softpedia’s security news reporter. Eduard holds a bachelor’s degree in industrial informatics and a master’s degree in computer techniques applied in electrical engineering.