Swiss spy agency warns CIA, MI6 over 'massive' secret data theft

Switzerland's national security agency warns that a huge amount of secret, counter-terrorist data may have been leaked by no other than a disgruntled 'administrator-level' employee.
Written by Zack Whittaker, Contributor

Secret counter-terrorism information shared by foreign governments, which may not limited to the U.K. and U.S. administrations, is thought to have been stolen by a senior IT employee of Switzerland's state intelligence service.

First reported by the Reuters news agency, the U.S.' Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and the U.K.'s Secret Intelligence Agency (MI6), have been warned that data they shared may no longer be just in their hands, according to sources who discussed the sensitive information and asked not to be named.

The employee reportedly became disgruntled with his employer after he advised the agency on operating the data systems, which was subsequently ignored.

The sources say that he downloaded "terabytes" of classified material from the Swiss intelligence service's servers onto portable hard drives. He then left the government building with a backpack containing the hard drives.

The Swiss intelligence service (NDB) has not named the employee, who reportedly had administrator-level rights -- giving him "unrestricted access to most or all of the NDB's networks -- including those holding "vast caches of secret data," reports the news agency.

Swiss law enforcement authorities arrested the employee and seized the data under the suspicion that he was going to sell the data. But, another Reuters sources said that they "could not be positive" the suspect did not already hand off or sell the data to someone else before his arrest.

Only when the Swiss bank UBS expressed concern to authorities, reports local Swiss news via the Reuters report, regarding a potentially suspicious attempt to set up a new bank account, did the bank inform authorities. The bank account was then traced to the NDB technician.

The Swiss agency is relatively new compared to its European counterparts, and has yet to develop legal powers to conduct wiretaps or search premises. In comparison, the U.K.'s Secret Intelligence Service has been operational since 1909, but it was only disclosed as an official U.K. government agency in U.K. law in 1995, by which point it had moved into quite possibly the least discreet offices in the whole of central London.

Switzerland's government is now investigating the data theft and will report back to the parliament in spring.

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