Three former U.S. intelligence operatives have admitted to working illegally as mercenary hackers for the United Arab Emirates (UAE). They’ve been charged with conspiring to violate U.S. military export control and computer fraud law, reports the Washington Post. Marc Baier, 49, Ryan Adams, 34, and Daniel Gericke, 40, were allegedly part of a clandestine effort that helped the UAE spy on targets around the world, using servers and computers and evading detection by providers of compromised devices, including in the United States.
The men entered a deferred prosecution agreement with the federal government in which they admitted their conduct and agreed to give up $1.7 million and U.S. security clearances, restrict their future employment and “cooperate fully” with investigators. In return, U.S. prosecutors agreed to drop all charges after a three-year period. The three men were part of Project Raven, a secret project that helped the UAE spy on targets including journalists, foreign leaders, dissidents and U.S. citizens. The defendants and other employees of a Maryland company that transferred work and labor to a UAE-based company, Dark Matter, created two “zero-click” intelligence-gathering systems that leveraged servers in the United States belonging to a “U.S. Company Two,” apparently Apple, to obtain remote unauthorized access to any of tens of millions of smartphones and mobile devices using the company’s operating system, including in the United States.