Ex-CIA Employee Convicted in Theft of Covert Hacking Info

Joshua Schulte Is Guilty on Ten Counts Ranging From Espionage to Obstruction
Ex-CIA Employee Convicted in Theft of Covert Hacking Info

A former CIA programmer charged with spilling the agency's top-secret hacking toolbox online is guilty after a federal jury returned a verdict on all counts.

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Joshua Schulte, 33, faces up to 80 years in prison after hearing the verdict Wednesday afternoon in a Manhattan federal court room.* The government indicted him on eight counts, including espionage, unauthorized access to a computer and obstruction of justice.*

Schulte, who developed penetration tools for the espionage service, sent WikiLeaks a trove of techniques used for snooping on iPhones, Cisco networking devices, Skype and even smart TVs (see: 7 Facts: 'Vault 7' CIA Hacking Tool Dump by WikiLeaks). WikiLeaks posted more than 8,700 documents online in March 2017, calling the leak "Vault 7" and revealing covert programs with names including CrunchyLimeSkies and McNugget.

U.S. Attorney Damian Williams called the leak "one of the most brazen and damaging acts" of espionage in American history. Schulte harbored resentment toward the CIA and was "aware that the collateral damage of his retribution could pose an extraordinary threat to this nation," Williams said after the jury verdict.

For all Schulte's apparent technical sophistication, a recent New Yorker profile of the now-convicted leaker found he was reckless with his personal security. Schulte also faces charges for possession of child pornography.

A first attempt to prosecute Schulte ended in a mistrial, with the jury convicting him on contempt of court charges as well as of lying to the FBI's investigators, but not on the espionage charges. Schulte opted to represent himself in the second trial.

*Correction Feb. 1, 2024 22:20 UTC: Corrects the number of guilty criminals counts and the maximum possible prison sentence.

About the Author

Mihir Bagwe

Mihir Bagwe

Principal Correspondent, Global News Desk, ISMG

Bagwe previously worked at CISO magazine, reporting the latest cybersecurity news and trends and interviewing cybersecurity subject matter experts.

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