The alleged hack of the communications network used by CIA agents allowed Iranian intelligence to identify and kill at least 30 spies.
According to Yahoo! News the security breach has happened in 2009, the Iranian intelligence infiltrated a series of websites used by the CIA to communicate with agents worldwide, including Iran and China.
“The previously unreported global problem originated in Iran and spiderwebbed to other countries, and was left unrepaired — despite warnings about what was happening — until more than two dozen sources died in China in 2011 and 2012 as a result, according to 11 former intelligence and national security officials.” reported Yahoo News.
“A former senior intelligence official with direct knowledge of the compromise said it had global implications for the CIA. “You start thinking twice about people, from China to Russia to Iran to North Korea,” said the former official. The CIA was worried about its network “totally unwinding worldwide.””
Experts speculate that the hack of the communications network was the result of a simple Google search. The Iranian intelligence initially identified a double agent that showed them one of the sites used by the network of CIA agents, then Iranian counter espionage used Google to identify other similar sites used by the CIA and started to intercept their communications.
“According to the former intelligence official, once the Iranian double agent showed Iranian intelligence the website used to communicate with his or her CIA handlers, they began to scour the internet for websites with similar digital signifiers or components — eventually hitting on the right string of advanced search terms to locate other secret CIA websites. From there, Iranian intelligence tracked who was visiting these sites, and from where, and began to unravel the wider CIA network.” continues the report.
“In fact, the Iranians used Google to identify the website the CIA was using to communicate with agents.”
Iran announced identified and arrested many spies, some of them were executed.
Iran also shared information of the CIA communication network with friendly countries that used it to dismantle CIA’s activities in their own territories.
In a 2012 incident in China, the Chinese government identified and killed 30 US spies.
The report published by Yahoo also cited a defense contractor for the CIA named John Reidy that warned the agency of it was using insecure communications systems in 2008, and again in 2010. Unfortunately, he was fired by the agency, likely in retaliation for not shutting up.
“In 2008 — well before the Iranians had arrested any agents — a defense contractor named John Reidy, whose job it was to identify, contact and manage human sources for the CIA in Iran, had already sounded an alarm about a “massive intelligence failure” having to do with “communications” with sources.” states the report.
“According to Reidy’s publicly available but heavily redacted whistleblower disclosure, by 2010 he said he was told that the “nightmare scenario” he had warned about regarding the secret communications platform had, in fact, occurred.”
“It was a recipe for disaster,” Reidy said. “We had a catastrophic failure on our hands that would ensnare a great many of our sources.”
(Security Affairs – intelligence, spies)