Shadow Brokers hacked NSA’s Equation Group?

In June 2013, Edward Snowden made one of the biggest reveals in history. He had proof that the U.S. government is indeed spying on civilians. Now, a hacking group called Shadow Brokers claim to have hacked the Equation Group, a cyberespionage organization linked to the National Security Agency.

In a blog post, the hacking group stated “We hack Equation Group. We find many many Equation Group cyber weapons. You see pictures. We give you some Equation Group files free, you see. This is good proof no? You enjoy!!! You break many things. You find many intrusions. You write many words. But not all, we are auction the best files.”

If you are not familiar with the Equation Group, it was outed by Kaspersky Lab ZAO last year for hacking governments, telecommunications companies, and other organizations in countries such as Russia, Iraq, and Iran. The Equation Group allegedly used malware that is able to withstand disk formatting and operating system reinstallation, and can create an invisible area hidden inside the hard drive where it will collect information and crack encryption until it is retrieved by the attacker.

The blog post also contains links to cloud accounts where the alleged files that contains tool kits used by the Equation Group for hacking, as well as proof of the authenticity of the dump. The Shadow Brokers is auctioning off the files for the highest Bitcoin bidder.

So, was the NSA really hacked?

Ben Johnson, co-founder of Carbon Black Inc. and a former NSA computer scientist, stated that people should not think that the NSA was hacked and he believes that what Shadow Broker has is not the complete toolkit. Another security analyst, Oren Falkowitz, the CEO of Area 1 Security Inc. and a former NSA analyst, is questioning the method used by Shadow Broker, asking what the group meant by hacking, if it was done by physically stealing the data.

Though these concerns are valid, other security researchers believe the toolkits are real and are from the NSA, but are questioning the motive of the hack.

Who’s to blame?

Nicholas Weaver, a researcher with the International Computer Science Institute, a nonprofit research center affiliated with the University of California, Berkeley, believes the the toolkits are genuine, but stated that the auction could be a misdirect.

“Whoever stole the data wants the world to know that they stole it,” he said in an email to the Wall Street Journal.  “The suspect list is almost certainly short—Russia or China, and given the recent espionage troubles between the U.S. and Russia, probably the former.”

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