Ex-NSA Worker Pleads Guilty to Taking Classified Data

Today’s topics include a former NSA employee pleading guilty to taking classified data home; a new Senate bill proposing prison time for failing to report data breaches; Microsoft modernizing its Redmond, Wash., campus starting in 2018; and a new Windows 10 Timeline feature helping users resume past tasks.

The U.S. Department of Justice announced on Dec. 1 that former National Security Agency developer Nghia Hoang Pho pleaded guilty to charges that he took classified information to his home, to which Russian operatives allegedly were able to gain access.

Pho worked for the NSA's Tailored Access Operations Unit from 2006 until 2016 and had access to data and documents that included classified and top secret national defense information. "According to the plea agreement, beginning in 2010 and continuing through March 2015, Pho removed and retained U.S. government documents and writings that contained national defense information, including information classified as Top Secret and Sensitive Compartmented Information," the DOJ stated.

According the New York Times, Pho's home computer was running antivirus software from Russian security firm Kaspersky Lab. The software in turn was allegedly exploited by Russian hackers, who were able to steal secret NSA information from Pho's home system.

If a new Senate bill called the “Data Security and Breach Notification Act” introduced on Nov. 30 is passed, the failure to report a breach in a timely manner could land the people who knew about it in prison for as long as five years.

Introduced by three Democratic senators, the bill covers a wide range of topics involving the protection and destruction of data containing personal information, and puts the Federal Trade Commission in charge of enforcing penalties for data breaches.

Besides imposing significant penalties for the failure to report a breach, the bill contains provisions controlling how personal information, including names, Social Security numbers and credit card numbers, must be protected. The bill also exempts organizations from the worst penalties if a data breach occurs if they protected customer data through data encryption.

In the fall of 2018, Microsoft will embark on a "multi-year campus refresh," announced Brad Smith, president and chief legal officer of Microsoft, on Nov. 28. The ambitious, five- to seven-year project involves replacing 12 existing structures and putting up 18 airy new buildings at the company's East Redmond, Wash., campus. In an environmentally friendly move, the new construction will feature energy monitoring systems powered by Microsoft's own Azure cloud-computing platform.

"Today Microsoft has 125 buildings in the Puget Sound region," said Smith. "When this project is complete, our main campus will be comprised of 131 buildings of modern workspace for the 47,000 employees who work here every day, plus room to … add up to 8,000 more people," he added.

Microsoft is also investing $150 million in transportation infrastructure, green spaces, public areas and athletic fields.

First demonstrated during the Microsoft Build conference in May, a new Timeline feature will soon be arriving in Windows Insider preview builds of Windows 10 that will allow users to resume tasks they had to shelve earlier.

Timeline is a visual interface that allows users to jump back into the applications, files and websites they were working on at a given time. It uses Adaptive Cards, a cross-platform format that enables developers to display content in a manner that adapts to the look and feel of the host application, preventing jarring mismatches in the visual styles and behaviors in integrated applications. Selecting a card will allow users to pick up where they left off, even across supported devices.