A former government consultant breached sensitive portions of the FBI’s classified computer system to obtain the passwords of 38,000 employees – including that of FBI Director Robert S. Mueller III, according to a report today in the Washington Post.
Joseph Thomas Colon, 28, an employee of BAE Systems assigned to the FBI field office in Springfield, Ill., hacked into the agency's systems four times in 2004, accessing records of the Witness Protection Program and details of counterespionage activity, according to documents filed in U.S. District Court in Washington D.C.
The hack could become the latest information security black eye for the federal government, coming a month after the records of about 26.5 million veterans and active duty U.S. military members were compromised.
The bureau shut down its network and committed thousands of man-hours to ensure no sensitive data had been misused, according to the report.
The government does not allege that Colon intended to breach sensitive law enforcement or national security information for nefarious purposes, but said Colon's actions were "curiosity hacks," according to the Post's report.
Colon pleaded guilty in March to four counts of intentionally accessing a computer while exceeding authorized access and obtaining information from any department in the United States. Sentencing guidelines call for Colon to face up to 18 months in prison. He has lost his job with BAE systems.
Just this week, the Baltimore Sun reported that Chinese hackers recently hijacked a classified computer system of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and made off with confidential information.
Last week, the White House's Office of Management and Budget (OMB) ordered government agencies to improve their security controls within 45 days.
The missive was a firm reminder from government overseers at OMB that information security must be improved to protect citizens – particularly after the public fallout following the loss of millions of Department of Veterans Affairs records.