Ex CIA employee Joshua Adam Schulte sentenced to 40 years in prison

Pierluigi Paganini February 02, 2024

A former software engineer with the U.S. CIA has been sentenced to 40 years in prison for leaking classified documents.

Former CIA employee Joshua Adam Schulte has been sentenced to 40 years in prison for passing classified documents to WikiLeaks and for possessing child pornographic material.

“Damian Williams, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York; Matthew G. Olsen, the Assistant Attorney General for National Security; and James Smith, the Assistant Director in Charge of the New York Field Office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (“FBI”), announced today that JOSHUA ADAM SCHULTE was sentenced to 40 years in prison by U.S. District Judge Jesse M. Furman for crimes of espionage, computer hacking, contempt of Court, making false statements to the FBI, and child pornography.” reads the press release published by DoJ. “SCHULTE’s theft is the largest data breach in the history of the CIA, and his transmission of that stolen information to WikiLeaks is one of the largest unauthorized disclosures of classified information in the history of the U.S.”

In July 2022, Schulte was found guilty in a New York federal court of stealing the agency’s hacking tools and leaking them to WikiLeaks in 2017.

The huge trove of data, called “Vault 7,” exposed the hacking capabilities of the US Intelligence Agency and its internal infrastructure. The archive includes confidential information, malicious codes, and exploits specifically designed to target popular products from various IT companies, including Samsung, Apple, Google, and Microsoft.

The hacking tools developed by the US cyber spies can target mobile devices, desktop computers, and IoT devices such as routers and smart TVs.

The arsenal used by the Central Intelligence Agency hackers was composed of hacking tools developed by the CCI’s Engineering Development Group (EDG).

The developers at EDG are tasked for developing and testing any kind of malicious code, including implants, backdoors, exploits, Trojans and viruses. The CIA has dozens of zero-day exploit codes in its arsenal that can be used to target almost any platform, from Windows and Linux PC, to Android and iOS mobile devices.

In middle May 2018, both The New York Times and The Washington Post, revealed the name of the alleged source of the Vault 7 leak, the man who passed the secret documents to Wikileaks. According to his LinkedIn profile, Schulte worked for the NSA for five months in 2010 as a systems engineer, after this experience, he joined the CIA as a software engineer and he left the CIA in November 2016.

Schulte was identified a few days after WikiLeaks started leaking the precious dumps.

Schulte was arrested for possession of child pornography, he was charged with three counts of receipt, possession and transportation of child pornography in August 2017.

The man was released in September 2017, but in December he was arrested again for violating the conditions of his release.

In November 2018, Joshua Adam Schulte faced new charges, including in a new indictment filed in Manhattan federal court, he was charged with the unlawful transmission and attempted unlawful transmission of national defense secrets from prison.

In February 2018, the lawyers of the former CIA employee asked the court for a mistrial, in this case, they claimed the prosecutors withheld evidence that could exonerate his client during the trial in the Manhattan federal court.

While SCHULTE was in jail, he obtained access to contraband cell phones and used them to create anonymous, encrypted email and social media accounts.  SCHULTE also attempted these devices to transmit protected discovery materials to WikiLeaks.

In March 2017, during a search of SCHULTE’s apartment in New York the FBI found multiple computers, servers, and other electronic storage devices, including SCHULTE’s personal desktop computer (the “Desktop Computer”), which SCHULTE built while living in Virginia and then transported to New York in November 2016. The personal desktop computer was containing tens of thousands of videos and images of child sexual abuse materials, including approximately 3,400 images and videos of disturbing and horrific child pornography and the rape and sexual abuse of children as young as two years old, as well as images of bestiality and sadomasochism. The man stockpiled these disturbing materials while he was serving the CIA and continued to collect child pornography from the dark web and Russian websites after moving to New York.

On September 13, 2023, SCHULTE was also found guilty at trial on charges of receiving, possessing, and transporting child pornography.

“Today, Joshua Schulte was rightly punished not only for his betrayal of our country, but for his substantial possession of horrific child pornographic material.  The severity of his actions is evident, and the sentence imposed reflects the magnitude of the disturbing and harmful threat posed by his criminal conduct.” FBI Assistant Director in Charge James Smith said: “The FBI will not yield in our efforts to bring to justice anyone who endangers innocent children or threatens our national security.”

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Pierluigi Paganini

(SecurityAffairs – hacking, Joshua Adam Schulte)

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