NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden used inexpensive and widely available software to 'scrape' the National Security Agency's networks.
The revelation was made after intelligence officials investigated how Snowden got access to the documents.
Using 'web crawler' software designed to search, index and back up a website, Snowden "scraped data out of the systems" while on the job, a senior intelligence official said. The official added that Snowden secretly accessed the material in sequence and was 'quite automated'.
According to the New York Times, 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', was hardly sophisticated and should have been easily detected, investigators found. The report said that Snowden had broad access to the NSA's complete files because he was working as a technology contractor for the agency in Hawaii. He was helping to manage the agency's computer systems in an outpost that focuses on China and North Korea.
The officials said that Snowden appears to have set the parameters for the searches, including which subjects to look for and how deeply to follow links to documents and other data on the NSA's internal networks.
Intelligence officials told a House hearing last week that he accessed roughly 1.7 million files, the report added.