Critical Breach of Air Force Communications Systems Investigated by Pentagon

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The Pentagon is investigating a Tennessee-based engineer for a “critical” compromise of communications at 17 Air Force installations. The engineer has not been charged but is alleged to be the one who took home radio technology worth more than $90,000 and gained “unauthorized administrator” access to Air Force’s Air Education and Training Command.

Three months ago, a junior Air National Guardsman was accused of leaking a large number of classified documents on the internet. Jack Teixeira used his top secret security clearance, despite being a relatively low-ranking person, to upload hundreds of Ukraine war files on the Russians to Discord.

This new case involved a civilian air force engineer who took advantage of lax security at Arnold Air Force Base to steal a large amount of equipment. He was also able to gain access to secure communications, including those of FBI and Arnold AFB’s entire communications system.

Forbes:

The warrant states that “witnesses” and “co-workers” informed investigators of the suspect’s “sales of radios and radio gear, working odd hours, arrogant behavior, lying, inappropriate workplace conduct, sexual harassment and financial difficulties.” He was also reported twice by a colleague for “insider threats indicators” and unauthorised possession of Air Force items, the investigators stated.

According to the suspect’s LinkedIn page, he has extensive experience in radio communications and cybersecurity. He claimed to have conducted numerous tests on the security of the Arnold Air Force Base, improved the protection of radio communication on the site and was familiar with the encryption used for government data.

A USB drive containing the “administrative keys and passwords” for AETC’s radio network was also in his possession. He also had “local law enforcement programming files” as well as “Motorola programming files,” both clearly marked by the U.S. Government.

According to the warrant, the government was tipped off that a 48-year old engineer had stolen government radio technology and taken it home for his personal use. The equipment allegedly pilfered was worth almost $90,000.

The warrant stated that when law enforcement raided the home of the man, they discovered he had unauthorized administrator access to radio communication tech used by Air Education and Training Command. This “affected 17 DoD installations,” the warrant said. Pentagon defines the AETC as one of nine major commands that provide offensive, defensive and support elements to Air Force HQ.

According to the LinkedIn page of the man, it was not just braggadocio. He was involved in testing the base security including the secure communication systems. He could have signed out equipment but did anyone check to make sure he returned it to him?

Forbes reports that the suspect used a Motorola software for radio programming, which contained all of Arnold Air Force Base’s (AAFB’s) communications systems. When you hear about the extent, the first thing that comes to mind is espionage. It doesn’t matter that the warrant did not mention it. The investigation will continue, given the scope of the security breach. We won’t learn much more about it until we determine whether there was any foreign influence.