In the heat of a months-long hacker investigation into an extraordinary break-in at a leading wireless carrier’s network, an Internet informant approached the Secret Service with startling news: The targeted hackers were reading some of the agency’s own e-mails and computer files.
The trove of illicit government data included a “highly sensitive” internal Secret Service memorandum and part of a mutual assistance legal treaty from Russia, according to court records. A hunted hacker turned his sights on his pursuers, targeting at one point the desktop computer of a Secret Service agent on his trail.
The original break-in targeted the network of Bellevue, Wash.-based T-Mobile USA, which has 16.3 million customers nationwide. It was discovered during a broader Secret Service investigation, “Operation Firewall,” which targeted underground hacker organizations known as Shadowcrew, Carderplanet and Darkprofits.
But in a twist, one of the government’s investigators was also a T-Mobile customer and sometimes used the wireless network to communicate about the case, unaware it wasn’t safe.