Security

US Military Suffers Massive Leak Of Confidential Air Force Data

Sam Pudwell joined Silicon UK as a reporter in December 2016. As well as being the resident Cloud aficionado, he covers areas such as cyber security, government IT and sports technology, with the aim of going to as many events as possible.

The leaked military documents have been described as the “holy grail” for foreign spies

Thousands of confidential US Air Force documents were exposed online in a mass military leak through an unsecured internet-connected backup drive belonging to a lieutenant colonel.

According to ZDNet, the drive was not password protected and leaked documents included the personal information of more than 4,000 officers, as well as  highly sensitive files on high-ranking personnel.

The “trove” of leaked data included names, addresses, Social Security numbers, phone numbers and contact information of staff and their spouses, all of which was freely available to view online.

top Secret stamp security leak © Aquir Shutterstock

Military leak

Even more worryingly, some of the files listed the security clearance levels for officers possessing “top secret” clearance, along with access to sensitive military information with codeword-level clearance.

The data has since been secured by MacKeeper security researcher Bob Diachenko, who first noticed the leak.

“The most shocking document was a spread sheet of open investigations that included the name, rank, location, and a detailed description of the accusations,” the researchers say. “The investigations range from discrimination and sexual harassment to more serious claims.

“One example is an investigation into a Major General who is accused of accepting $50k a year from a sports commission that was supposedly funneled into the National Guard. There were many other details from investigations that neither the Air Force or those being investigated would want publically leaked.”

Speaking to ZDNet, national security experts described the leak as the “holy grail” for foreign spies. Susan Hennessey, a former attorney at the National Security Agency said: “Foreign powers might use that information to target those individuals for espionage or to otherwise monitor their activity in the hopes of gaining insight into US national security posture.

“Still, it is the obligation of the government to keep this kind of information safe, both in order to protect the privacy of those who serve and their families and to protect them against being placed in difficult situations unnecessarily.”

Unfortunately for the US government, this is the second high-profile leak to have hit the headlines over the last couple of weeks, after Wikileaks published thousands of classified documents belonging to the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA).

The documents exposed the hacking tools used by the CIA to access smartphones, computers and even smart televisions. Wikileaks founder Julian Assange has since pledged to work with manufacturers to develop “fixes” for the tools before publishing the documents online.

Quiz: Are you a security guru?