Intelligence officials investigating how Edward Snowden gained access to roughly 1.7 million of the country's most highly classified documents say they have determined that he used inexpensive and widely available software to "scrape" the National Security Agency's networks, and he kept at it even after he was briefly challenged by agency officials.
Using "Web crawler" software designed to search, index and back up a website, Snowden "scraped data out of our systems" while he went about his day job, according to a senior intelligence official. "We do not believe this was an individual sitting at a machine and downloading this much material in sequence," the official said. The process, he added, was "quite automated."
The findings are striking because the NSA's mission includes protecting the nation's most sensitive military and intelligence computer systems from cyberattacks, especially the sophisticated attacks that emanate from Russia and China. Snowden's "insider attack," by contrast, was hardly sophisticated and should have been easily detected, investigators found.