NSA in crisis since Shadow Brokers stole their cyberweapons

The NSA have been in turmoil since the Shadow Brokers leaked their classified cyberweapons online.
  • It is now fifteen months since the infamous leak of NSA cyberweapons by “the Shadow Brokers” and the FBI still do not know whether the spy agency was the victim of a state-sponsored hack, an insider leak, or both.
  • Three employees have since been arrested for taking classified files, but the NSA fears that one or more insiders may still be a large.
  • Jake Williams, a former member of the NSA’s Tailored Access Operations (TAO) group, who was named in the release, calls the debacle a “disaster on multiple levels”. “It’s embarrassing that the people responsible for this have not been brought to justice,” he says.
  • Russian-sponsored hackers are the prime suspects for releasing a similar flood of CIA hacking tools and documents to WikiLeaks under the names Vault7 and Vault8. That case also remains unsolved.
  • Have Russia outmanoeuvred the US? Is it possible to monitor a workforce of tens of thousands of spies who could steal libraries full of files on a small USB key?
  • “We have had a train wreck coming,” believes Mike McConnell, the former NSA director and national intelligence director.
  • While the NSA don’t know exactly what the Shadow Brokers took, it seems all the leaked files date from before 2013.
  • There is evidence that the Shadow Brokers obtained the entire tool kits intact, suggesting that an insider simply downloaded them to a USB stick.
  • But other leaked files seem unrelated and appear to have been obtained at different times, such as an exploit for the SWIFT bank payment system.
  • Some say it is possible that it was the result of an external hack, because, as one NSA source says, “I know we’ve done it to other countries.”
  • “Snowden killed morale,” another TAO spy said. “But at least we knew who he was. Now you have a situation where the agency is questioning people who have been 100% mission-oriented, telling them they’re liars.”
  • Some agency veterans have seen projects they worked on for a decade crumble before their eyes because malware they relied on was exposed online by the Shadow Brokers.
  • The US have filed criminal charges against hackers from the intelligence agencies of China, Iran and Russia in the past. Mr Williams, as a named NSA hacker, said he feared he could be similarly charged by a foreign state. But he says no one from the N.S.A. has so much as contacted him about being singled out publicly. “That feels like a betrayal,” he said. “I do not feel the government has my back.”
  • Williams said it may be years before the “full fallout” of the Shadow Brokers breach comes to light. Even if the culprits are apprehended, they may have a “dead man’s switch” to release any remaining files automatically upon their arrest, he warns.

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