A government consultant, using computer programs found on the Internet, cracked the FBI’s classified computer system and gain the passwords of 38,000 employees, including that of FBI Director Robert Mueller III, says the Washington Post. The break-ins, which occurred four times in 2004, gave the consultant access to records in the Witness Protection Program and details on counterespionage activity, according to documents filed in court. The bureau was forced to shut down its network temporarily and commit thousands of man-hours and millions of dollars to ensure no sensitive information was lost or misused.
The government does not allege that the consultant, Joseph Colon, intended to harm national security. Prosecutors said Colon’s “curiosity hacks” nonetheless exposed sensitive information. Colon, 28, an employee of BAE Systems who was assigned to the FBI field office in Springfield, Il., said in court filings that he used the passwords and other information to bypass bureaucratic obstacles and better help the FBI install its new computer system. He said agents in the Springfield office approved his actions. The incident is the latest in a string of foul-ups, delays, and embarrassments that have plagued the FBI as it tries to update its computer systems. Colon has pleaded guilty to four counts of intentionally accessing a federal computer while exceeding authorized access. He lost his job with BAE Systems, and his top-secret clearance has been revoked.