Sunday, December 16, 2012

NDB Security Breach

Just as the thought crossed my mind, my phone rang. It appears that the world cant wait too long after all. I have roughly 12 minutes until the conference begins and under protest do I answer this call. On the other line I am being greeted by our contact inside the NDB, the Swiss intelligence agency, who wants to reassure us that the mission has not been compromised.

Earlier this month one of the NDB's senior technicians downloaded several terabytes of classified information onto portable harddrives and carried them out of a government building in his backpack. He worked for the NDB for eight years and investigators believe he became disgruntled with security flaws and decided to steal the data and sell it to foreign governments. Most of the data was related to counter-terrorism and was shared with other agencies such as MI6 and CIA, both of whom have been contacted by the NDB in order to inform them of the compromised data.

Our main concern was that our specific mission has not been compromised and we are still able to execute it as planned. I am pleased to hear that our security measures have worked, it is one less problem to be concerned with. Swiss authorities who made the arrest believe all the data was recovered before a sale was made and that no data was compromised.Having said that, authorities cannot confirm that no data was leaked and investigations will continue.

Nevertheless it raised questions about security procedures at the NDB, which is a fairly new agency, on a European level. The NDB needs to overhaul its entire human resources structure. Currently the information as well as technology division are screened by one central division at the NDB which makes it impossible for subdivisions to launch their own investigations and screen their own operatives.

The senior technician was described as very talented and had a high security clearance which allowed him to virtually access the entire NDB database. His behavior should have alarmed his superiors as well as the security staff, but the NDB claims they had no idea about the security breach until UBS has discovered suspicious activity in opening a numbered bank account which they reported to authorities.

The bank account was later traced to the senior technician and is believed that he intended to use the numbered bank account in order to receive wires after selling the information to foreign nationals. This displays serious security flaws and puts global operations at risk. The Swiss government has launched several investigations into that matter which are still active.

I thank our informant for the confirmation as I end the call. I have seven minutes left to prepare for the meeting and slowly finish my Irish Coffee. It is a nice day outside. The sky is clear and free of clouds while the harbor seems very quiet. The scene outside my office window allows you to daydream for a moment before facing reality. Yes, a very nice day.

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