Former NSA worker pleads guilty to snatching classified docs

This image is for use with this specific article only.** A former National Security Agency employee pleaded guilty to taking sensitive national defense information from his workplace and storing it at his residence

Pho faces a maximum of 10 years in prison.

According to anonymous sources from the investigation who spoke with New York Times reporters, Pho is the NSA employee at the heart of the recent Kaspersky saga. Authorities found classified documents throughout his home, according to court documents, which Pho took from work between 2010 and 2015.

Pho, who was born in Vietnam and is a naturalized US citizen, is free pending his sentencing, which is set for April 6, Bonsib said.

Nghia Hoang Pho, who worked in the NSA's elite hacking unit, retained United States government documents containing top-secret national defense information between 2010 and March 2015, the Justice Department said.

Pho worked for the National Security Agency's (NSA) Tailored Access Operations (TAO) since April 2006.

The NSA has not commented on the report, but the Department of Homeland Security subsequently issued a directive banning all USA agencies from using Kaspersky products.

Sixty-seven-year-old Nghia Hoang Pho admitted to a willful retention charge, which was mostly kept under wraps due to the sensitive nature of the crime, according to Reuters. USA officials have said that Kaspersky Lab, by virtue of being located in Moscow, is subject to Russian surveillance. Kaspersky Lab, a Russia-based cybersecurity firm, has denied any role in working with the Russian government or other entities to identify or steal documents. The material is reportedly believed to have been stolen from his computer by Russian hackers exploiting his personal antivirus software.

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Pho's lawyer, Robert Bonsib, can ask for a more lighter sentence, and his client remains free as he awaits sentencing.

The National Security Agency headquarters building in Fort Meade, Maryland.

The charges come on the heels of another government investigation in relation to a larger breach of NSA security, in which the NSA's hacking tools were released to the public previous year by an unidentified group called the Shadow Brokers, Wired reported. Harold Martin, an NSA contractor, was indicted in February for stealing up to 50 terabytes of data during a 20 year period, The Times said.

Pho is the third person working for the NSA to be arrested for removing classified information since October of previous year - with contractor Reality Winner and NSA employee Harold Martin III preceding him.

And in 2013, former contractor Edward Snowden pilfered secrets about NSA's surveillance programs and shared them with journalists.

Reality Winner, 25, a former Air Force linguist who worked as an NSA contractor at a facility in Augusta, Georgia, was charged in June with copying a classified USA report and mailing it to a news organization.

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