British Royal Navy officer used mobile to snap nuclear sub’s crypto system

A former communications specialist for the British Royal Navy whose career had stalled has been jailed for attempting to expose a nuclear submarine’s messaging encryption system.

Irish-born Petty Officer Edward Devenney was sentenced to eight years prison on Wednesday, pleading guilty to one count of public misconduct and one count of breaching Britain’s Official Secrets Act.

In late 2011 Devenny had attempted to give away “crypto material” on board HMS Vigilant -- one of four nuclear submarines the UK maintains -- to two people he believed were Russian agents but were in fact MI5 agents.

Two days after contacting the Russian Embassy in London in late November 2011, Devenney took snapshots of “crypto material” on board the submarine with his mobile phone and later downloaded the images to his laptop.

Crypto material is used to configure computer equipment used for end to end encryption. The encryption system the officer could have compromised is used to protect communications between UK Armed Forced and NATO partners.

The pictures he had taken were an “essential piece of the jigsaw” that could break secret navy codes and ultimately undermine the location of Britain’s submarines.

<i>Belfast Telegraph</i> reported: “The photographs could, with other information, have led to the breaking of the code,” the judge overseeing the hearing said.

An MI5 agent contacted Devenney on December 5, posing as Russian agent ‘Dima’, and although the petty officer was suspicious of the “remarkably fake” Russian accent, he proceeded to negotiate with Dima via a series of text messages.

A week later, a second MI5 agent, posing as Dima’s associate, Vladimir, established a relationship with Devenney. Although Devenney was uncomfortable communicating by voice he continued messaging via text.

"Can't speak, at home. I'm disillusioned with my employers and feel let down by them. Think we can help each other," he texted the agent posing as Vladimir.

Devenney agreed to meet the two agents at the British Museum on January 28, 2012 and during a one hour meeting gave away information about the Vigilant’s sailing dates and a secret operation involving another submarine, HMS Trafalgar.

The officer was arrested in March 2012 by London Met’s Counter Terrorism Command, and throughout interviews with police, he remained unaware that the ‘Russian agents‘ were MI5.

"That was unbelievably stupid and I've no excuse for that," he said, according to the Met.

Devenney became disillusioned with his service to the Royal Navy after being withdrawn from training that could have led to a promotion to Chief Petty Officer.

Join the CSO newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.

Tags British Royal Navyencryptionphotography

More about NATO

Show Comments

Featured Whitepapers

Editor's Recommendations

Solution Centres

Stories by Liam Tung

Latest Videos

  • 150x50

    CSO Webinar: Will your data protection strategy be enough when disaster strikes?

    Speakers: - Paul O’Connor, Engagement leader - Performance Audit Group, Victorian Auditor-General’s Office (VAGO) - Nigel Phair, Managing Director, Centre for Internet Safety - Joshua Stenhouse, Technical Evangelist, Zerto - Anthony Caruana, CSO MC & Moderator

    Play Video

  • 150x50

    CSO Webinar: The Human Factor - Your people are your biggest security weakness

    ​Speakers: David Lacey, Researcher and former CISO Royal Mail David Turner - Global Risk Management Expert Mark Guntrip - Group Manager, Email Protection, Proofpoint

    Play Video

  • 150x50

    CSO Webinar: Current ransomware defences are failing – but machine learning can drive a more proactive solution

    Speakers • Ty Miller, Director, Threat Intelligence • Mark Gregory, Leader, Network Engineering Research Group, RMIT • Jeff Lanza, Retired FBI Agent (USA) • Andy Solterbeck, VP Asia Pacific, Cylance • David Braue, CSO MC/Moderator What to expect: ​Hear from industry experts on the local and global ransomware threat landscape. Explore a new approach to dealing with ransomware using machine-learning techniques and by thinking about the problem in a fundamentally different way. Apply techniques for gathering insight into ransomware behaviour and find out what elements must go into a truly effective ransomware defence. Get a first-hand look at how ransomware actually works in practice, and how machine-learning techniques can pick up on its activities long before your employees do.

    Play Video

  • 150x50

    CSO Webinar: Get real about metadata to avoid a false sense of security

    Speakers: • Anthony Caruana – CSO MC and moderator • Ian Farquhar, Worldwide Virtual Security Team Lead, Gigamon • John Lindsay, Former CTO, iiNet • Skeeve Stevens, Futurist, Future Sumo • David Vaile - Vice chair of APF, Co-Convenor of the Cyberspace Law And Policy Community, UNSW Law Faculty This webinar covers: - A 101 on metadata - what it is and how to use it - Insight into a typical attack, what happens and what we would find when looking into the metadata - How to collect metadata, use this to detect attacks and get greater insight into how you can use this to protect your organisation - Learn how much raw data and metadata to retain and how long for - Get a reality check on how you're using your metadata and if this is enough to secure your organisation

    Play Video

  • 150x50

    CSO Webinar: How banking trojans work and how you can stop them

    CSO Webinar: How banking trojans work and how you can stop them Featuring: • John Baird, Director of Global Technology Production, Deutsche Bank • Samantha Macleod, GM Cyber Security, ME Bank • Sherrod DeGrippo, Director of Emerging Threats, Proofpoint (USA)

    Play Video

More videos

Blog Posts

Market Place