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NSA contractor facing 10-year Espionage Act sentence for alleged journalistic leak may have been tracked down by printer used
8.6.17
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"Reality Winner, the woman alleged to have leaked classified information about Russian interference in the US election, could face up to 10 years in prison if the Trump administration pursues its complaint that she violated the Espionage Act.

The 25-year-old allegedly shared documents that reveal Russian intelligence agents hacked a US voting systems manufacturer in the weeks immediately before the 2016 presidential election.

The government said in its criminal complaint that Winner admitted to the charge in a conversation with the FBI on 3 June, but lawyers have cautioned that cannot be seen as a definitive admission of guilt, because the information is being relayed by the government."

See: NSA contractor faces 10-year sentence in first Espionage Act charge under Trump (The Guardian, link) and: US Department of Justice: Affidavit in support of application for arrest warrant (pdf)

Was Reality Winner tracked down by an analysis of the printer used? The Mysterious Printer Code That Could Have Led the FBI to Reality Winner (The Atlantic, link):

"Across the computer security world yesterday, heads were shaking.

The FBI filed a criminal complaint against Reality Winner, an NSA contractor, who the agency alleges stole classified documents and shared them with an “online news outlet” believed to be The Intercept. Because the documents in question appear to have been printed, some security experts have been wondering if a mysterious code used by some printers is to blame for Winner’s capture. That code is an almost-invisible grid of dots that some color printers ink into every document they print."

See: Electronic Frontier Foundation: Is Your Printer Spying On You? (link)

And an EU-funded research project looking into the issue of detecting which printer has been used to produce material: Andrupos (CORDIS, link):

"Identifying the source printer and the knowledge of distinctive printer and printing details of a document are a important steps in fighting crime like forgery or threathening letters. The evidence obtained from such printed documents analysis will provide useful forensic information to law enforcement, security and intelligence agencies. In this context, the objectives of our overall innovation project are to develop technologies for a software based, automated and non-destructive analysis of printed documents in terms of the identification of the utilised printing technology (like offset-, intaglio-, ink jet-, laser-, solid Ink- und thermal print, xerographie, magnetographie, liquid toner and other), for digital printing technlogies also the print engine and the printer brand and model or even serial number/specific printer. Documents in question will be banknotes, ID cards, stamps, tickets, contracts, tickets, bills, financial documents, threathening letters."

The story based on the document in question: Top-Secret NSA Report Details Russian Hacking Effort Days Before 2016 Election (The Intercept, link):

"Russian military intelligence executed a cyberattack on at least one U.S. voting software supplier and sent spear-phishing emails to more than 100 local election officials just days before last November’s presidential election, according to a highly classified intelligence report obtained by The Intercept.

The top-secret National Security Agency document, which was provided anonymously to The Intercept and independently authenticated, analyzes intelligence very recently acquired by the agency about a months-long Russian intelligence cyber effort against elements of the U.S. election and voting infrastructure. The report, dated May 5, 2017, is the most detailed U.S. government account of Russian interference in the election that has yet come to light."

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