The NSA hacker tools and exploits that were leaked online earlier this week have been confirmed to be real and authentic by ex-NSA worker and whistle-blower Edward Snowden. Snowden’s recently released documents confirm this notion.
When a 248-megabyte archive of NSA exploits and hacker tools was leaked on various file-sharing websites earlier this week, people had been suspicious as to the authenticity of the files. Many had believed that they were quite real, but there was no confirmation of the fact. However, the tools leaked are indeed real.
The NSA hacker tools and exploits were leaked online by a hacker group called the Shadow Brokers. The first evidence that the files were real came in the Friday issue of The Intercept, where Sam Biddle told NSA hackers how they could track their malicious software using a 16-character string that could be found in the code.
The same string was present in a file called Second Date, and this was part of the archive leaked by Shadow Brokers. Other tools present in the archive are Jet Plow, Zesty Leak, and Banana Glee, all of which were revealed to be NSA tools in late 2013.
The sophistication of these tools is something one does not usually comes across. While the usual hacking tools go after a target and then leave, the superior hackers go one step ahead and clean up their tracks. They break into a network, get their job done, and then wipe their digital footprints to avoid detection.
If they create backdoors to gain entry, they close those backdoors once they are done. These are the kinds of hackers that are employed by agencies like the NSA, and the tools they use can only be found in government agencies. The tools leaked in the archive file by Shadow Brokers fall in this category.
As to the source behind this leak, there are different theories. One is the Shadow Brokers broke into one of NSA’s servers, where the files would have been left mistakenly by an employee in the NSA. The other theory is that Shadow Brokers were helped by an employee in the NSA, who downloaded the files from their servers and gave the files to the hacker group. Both theories are equally likely, and nobody knows which one is true.
Shadow Brokers have made half of the files free to view and use and encrypted the other half. They have initiated an online bidding for the tools, with the decryption key to be provided to the highest bidder. This is quite different from the usual trade of such hacking tools, for they usually take place on the black market and involve sums of millions of dollars paid confidentially.