In 2010 the National Security Agency (NSA) taught Edward Snowden how to turn the world’s largest spy agency inside out.
Snowden, through a NSA course that trains security professionals to think like hackers, acquired the skills he needed to quietly slip into NSA computer systems and gather the highly classified surveillance documents he leaked last month, Christopher Drew and Scott Shane of the New York Times report.
Snowden told the South China Morning Post that he took he got a job as an “infrastructure analyst” at Booz Allen to get “access to lists of machines all over the world the NSA hacked.”
Infrastructure analysts explore new ways to break into Internet and telephone traffic around the world.
“The hacker got into the storeroom,” James A. Lewis, a computer security expert at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, told The Times.
Snowden’s résumé, which is not public and was described to The Times, suggests that the 30-year-old whistleblower/leaker “had transformed himself into the kind of cybersecurity expert the N.S.A. is desperate to recruit,” according to The Times.
Here’s a rough timeline of Snowden’s recent cyber gigs:
- Around 2007 he became a CIA technician operating under cover as a “diplomatic attaché” in Geneva.
- Snowden told Internet forums that he got “six months of classified technical training” and served as “technical adviser to 3rd countries across the region,” (which probably refers to Europe).
- In 2010 he moved to Japan to work for Dell as a NSA contractor. He supervised computer system upgrades for the spy agency in Tokyo before becoming a “cyberstrategist,” an “expert in cyber counterintelligence” at several locations in the U.S., and then handling the company’s “Windows infrastructure” in the Pacific.
- In April Snowden left Dell to work at Booz Allen.
The Times report provides new meaning to President Obama’s statement that he is “not going to be scrambling jets to get a 29-year-old hacker,” which was initially interpreted as an effort to downplay Snowden.
It turns out Snowden was kind of a badass, and the NSA is largely responsible for that.