According to reports, the Pentagon is investigating a critical compromise of communications at 17 US air force facilities. Forbes first reported Friday that the US Department of Defense is investigating a 48-year-old engineer at the Arnold air force base in Tennessee for allegedly stealing various government radio technologies.
According to a search warrant obtained by investigators and reviewed by Forbes, the allegedly stolen equipment by the engineer cost close to $90,000.00. When law enforcement agents searched his residence, they discovered that he had unauthorized administrator access to radio communication technology used by the Air Education and Training Command (AETC), one of the nine major air force commands, which affected 17 defense department installations.
Investigators also discovered an open computer screen displaying the engineer programming Motorola radios. According to the warrant, the software contained the entire Arnold air force base (AAFB) communications system, as reported by Forbes. According to a document detailing the forensics of technologies seized from the engineer’s domicile, a USB containing administrative passwords and electronic system keys for the AETC radio network was in his possession.
Flash drives containing local law enforcement radio programming files and Motorola radio programming files that displayed a warning banner indicating they were government property were also seized. According to Forbes, search-recovered installer files displayed a “CONFIDENTIAL RESTRICTED” prompt upon opening.
According to the warrant, witnesses and coworkers informed investigators that the engineer sold radios and radio equipment, worked irregular hours, was arrogant, frequently lied, exhibited inappropriate workplace behavior and sexual harassment, struggled financially, and possessed Arnold air force base land mobile radio equipment.
According to investigators, a colleague had reported him twice due to insider threat indicators and illicit possession of air force equipment. Forbes reported that investigators discovered evidence indicating that the searched contractor had potential access to FBI and Tennessee state agency communications. According to the publication, the FBI and air force are collaborating on the investigation.
Cybersecurity Expertise and Government Data Encryption
Forbes has not yet disclosed the identity of the engineer because he has not yet been charged. However, according to the engineer’s LinkedIn page, he has an extensive background in cybersecurity and radio communications. According to Forbes, he claimed to have conducted numerous evaluations of the Arnold air force base’s security, improved protection of radio communications on the site, and had knowledge of the encryption used to secure government data.
The Forbes report was published just three months after one of the worst intelligence disclosures in over a decade. Jack Teixeira, then a 21-year-old air national guardsman, was arrested on suspicion of releasing hundreds of Pentagon documents. Since then, he has been indicted under the Espionage Act. In another potential security concern for the government, the New York Times reported on Saturday that the White House of Vice President Joe Biden was searching for alleged Chinese malware believed to be concealed in various American facilities.
According to a congressional official speaking to the New York Times, the malware is a ticking time bomb that could allow China to disrupt or impede American military deployments by cutting off power, water, and various communication channels to US military bases. The publication also reports that more than a dozen government officials and experts have stated that the government’s effort to track down and eradicate the malware has been underway for some time, due to its extensive concealment, the complete extent of the code’s presence across various networks remains unknown.
A National Security Council spokesperson told the New York Times that the Biden administration was working tirelessly to defend the United States against any disruptions to our critical infrastructure, including by coordinating interagency efforts to protect water systems, pipelines, rail and aviation systems, among others.