An FBI agent on the counterintelligence desk sent an alert across the agency on Wednesday describing the scam. Upon further investigation, FBI officials confirmed that this was not an isolated incident, but part of a pattern. The FBI’s Boston office is currently investigating the possibility of a security breach.
The emails were sent to defense contractors and IT companies with access to sensitive details about developing technologies in the computer and telecommunications sectors. The scam’s operations included asking for sensitive goods to be delivered to commercial offices, warehouses, and even overseas, leading officials to believe that a non-US intelligence service is likely behind the fraud. The security alert did not note which intelligence agency is thought to be behind the effort to acquire sensitive US technology.
According to the Washington Free Beacon, in the past, China’s spies have used email solicitation as part of an effort to spy on US defense technology. But this fraud attempt is thought to be unique, as the fraudster posed as a military officer engaged in purchasing.
Nevertheless, "the individual(s) involved appear to have knowledge and some degree of familiarity with US Department of Defense purchasing procedures and documentation," FBI Agent Carmine Nigro said in a security alert obtained by the Free Beacon, which leaves open the question of how the agent obtained such intimate DOD operational knowledge.
In a counterintelligence-awareness post, the Center for Development of Security Excellence describes electronics as the "building blocks for almost all technologies," citing integrated circuits, micro-sensors, capacitors, microprocessors, and circuit boards as part of a technology portfolio with "the potential to significantly enhance or degrade US Military capabilities in the future."