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Exotic Code in 'Shadow Brokers' Release Points to NSA

An enigmatic hacking organization referred to as "Shadow Brokers" claims to have acquired vital information connected with the United States National Security Agency (NSA) and is now demanding 1 million Bitcoins (almost $570 million) in an auction to disclose more sensitive data. "Attention government sponsors of cyber warfare and those who profit from it!"

That is, whether the Shadow Brokers had succeeded in hacking the NSA's hackers - and were now offering the agency's cyber weapons to the highest bidder. "If Equation Group lose control of cyber weapons, who else lose or find cyber weapons?"

The security firm described the Equation Group as a threat actor that surpasses anything known in terms of complexity and sophistication of techniques, and that has been active for nearly two decades. And while we, as onlookers, can't know for sure whether Russian Federation is behind this leak, nor whether these are really the NSA's cyber weapons, the NSA does, and has gotten the message.

The security firm Kaspersky, which past year (see embedded video below) provided a detailed analysis of the Equation Group, confirmed that the tools belonged to the this group. But this insider knowledge from Snowden just made it much, much more interesting.

The Russia-based Kaspersky Lab, which has been at the forefront into research of NSA techniques, said it found 347 instances of encryption algorithms in the leaked files that have been seen previously only in NSA-linked computer programming.

The dumping online by Shadow Brokers of hacking tools, developed by the U.S. National Security Agency, is leading to speculations that Russian Federation has launched a cyberwar against the United States.

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It is this secretive hacker collective that the "Shadow Brokers" claimed to have hacked, and allegely stole some of its hacking tools. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the hackers reckon that the software being auctioned off is of higher quality than the code the group freely published, claiming that the tools it's selling are "better than Stuxnet".

Other researchers were reluctant to draw firm conclusions about the files on Monday.

By claiming to reveal the inner workings of the NSA, the hack is seen by some as the latest salvo between Russia and the United States, after USA officials accused Russian hackers of breaking into files belonging to the Democratic National Committee and other Democratic groups and officials in an attempt to aid Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump.

To arouse interest in the auction, the hackers released samples of programs they said could break into popular firewall software made by companies including Cisco Systems Inc, Juniper Networks Inc and Fortinet Inc. Snowden and other experts say that the files leaked so far aren't operationally devastating for America's cyberspies - the most recent ones are from mid-2013, after Snowden's leak of NSA secrets (not code), when the NSA would have locked down and switched servers - but are still a really big deal.

Former NSA General Counsel Baker suggested that "the more disastrous and less likely scenario is that someone has hacked U.S. infrastructure and extracted large files", and likely has the ability to do so again.

Russian officials have dismissed the claims as paranoid or ridiculous, so the message delivered by Snowden - who resides at an undisclosed location in Moscow under the protection of the Russian government - struck many as significant.

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