An ex-U.S. military member who hacked computers for the government of the United Arab Emirates received a “deferred prosecution” agreement that let him escape a criminal conviction in exchange for paying a fine of $335,000, the Department of Justice announced Tuesday.
But that penalty likely will amount to no pain at all for Daniel Gericke: Gericke is the chief information officer for ExpressVPN, a computer privacy company that announced the same day that it was sold as part of a nearly $1 billion deal.
CNET reported that on Tuesday, ExpressVPN announced that it had been sold to Kape Technologies for $936 million.
Kape was “co-founded by an ex-Israeli surveillance agent and a billionaire previously convicted of insider trading” and was previously an adware company called CrossRider, CNET reported.
ExpressVPN told the publication: “We’ve known the key facts relating to Daniel’s employment history since before we hired him, as he disclosed them proactively and transparently with us from the start. In fact, it was his history and expertise that made him an invaluable hire for our mission to protect users’ privacy and security.”
The Daily Wire previously reported that two former members of U.S. intelligence agencies, Marc Baier and Ryan Adams, and Gericke, a former military member who has since renounced his U.S. citizenship, received an unusual deal from U.S. prosecutors. The agreement would result in them not receiving criminal convictions if they paid a fine and met other conditions, despite a remarkable betrayal of national trust.
The men worked for a UAE-based company that “carried out computer network exploitation” for the benefit of the UAE government between 2016 and 2019, including sophisticated “zero-click” hacking that could “compromise a device without any action by the target.” These hacks were used to break into computers and phones around the world, including within the U.S., and to gain passwords from U.S. companies, the DOJ said Tuesday.
The deal was announced by Mark J. Lesko, Acting Assistant Attorney General for the National Security Division. He said in a press release that the money-instead-of-prison agreement is “the first-of-its-kind resolution of an investigation into two distinct types of criminal activity: providing unlicensed export-controlled defense services in support of computer network exploitation, and a commercial company creating, supporting and operating systems specifically designed to allow others to access data without authorization from computers worldwide, including in the United States.”
“Hackers-for-hire and those who otherwise support such activities in violation of U.S. law should fully expect to be prosecuted for their criminal conduct,” he said, even though the men were not prosecuted.
Baier must pay $750,000 and Adams $600,000 — despite years of working on behalf of the oil-rich foreign nation. But Gericke’s fine is particularly unlikely to form any sort of deterrent since the VPN deal was so lucrative.
The business deal will include “Establishing the ExpressVPN Digital Security Lab, an independent research arm which conducts high-quality, original research to empower consumers with information about digital rights.”
ExpressVPN will remain headquartered in the British Virgin Islands. VPNs serve as a middleman to prevent websites or governments from identifying who visited certain sites.
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