Air Force engineer under investigation for “critical compromise” of communications
A raid found thousands of dollars in stolen equipment and multiple radio passwords.
The Department of Defense is investigating an engineer working at Arnold Air Force Base as the possible source of a major breach of the Air Force’s communications systems, according to a report from Forbes.
Forbes obtained and reviewed a Department of Justice search warrant for the unnamed engineer, which said that the Pentagon is investigating the incident, which the warrant called a “critical compromise” of the radio communication systems of the Air Education and Training Command (AETC). That impacts “17 DoD installations” according to the search warrant.
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The communications breach also extended to the Federal Bureau of Investigations, according to Forbes; the FBI and the Air Force are investigating the matter. The Department of Defense was alerted to the compromise by a contractor working at Arnold Air Force Base, who informed the Pentagon that the engineer had taken communications equipment from the base to his home. A raid by law enforcement found $90,000 worth of stolen technology, and a computer that was running software “which contained the entire Arnold Air Force Base (AAFB) communications system,” the warrant said.
During the raid — the date of which was not disclosed — authorities seized several items, including USB drives containing passwords for the AETC radio network as well as programs that came with warnings saying they belonged to the United States government. Installer files flashed “CONFIDENTIAL RESTRICTED” when in use, the warrant said.
Forbes has not named the engineer at the center of the case, as the person has not been charged with a crime. He did not comment when Forbes reached out; the outlet said that the person’s LinkedIn page showed a history of work in radio communications and cybersecurity. Co-workers had previously reported the engineer for equipment theft and “insider threat indicators.”
Task & Purpose reached out to the Pentagon and Arnold Air Force Base for comment; the Pentagon directed Task & Purpose to the Air Force, but as of press time this outlet has not heard back.
Arnold Air Force Base is located in Tennessee and is home to the Arnold Engineering Development Complex, a test and simulation facility for the Air Force. It’s unclear what steps the AETC is taking to improve security for its communications network or how it is resolving the breach.
The news comes after several leaks of military intelligence and hacks of military installations this last year. In the spring, defense officials confirmed that hackers linked to China had breached U.S. Navy infrastructure located on Guam. Meanwhile, Air National Guard member Jack Teixiera is accused of leaking a massive number of intelligence reports and documents online over multiple Discord servers.
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