By now, most of our readers have heard of the Shadow Brokers, the hacker group who obtained a large trove of data from the National Security Agency (NSA) and leaked information about the NSA’s cyber tools. The cyber tools were apparently stolen from the Equation Group, a cyber attack operation who experts believe are part of the NSA.
(Watch a quick overview about the NSA hack – “NSA Reportedly Hacked By Group Called The Shadow Brokers”):
Initially, evidence suggested that the Shadow Brokers were Russian, but a new theory is emerging that whoever is leaking this data might be “a second Edward Snowden… albeit one with different motives” (Fortune). James Bamfield, a journalist who is well known for his publications about United States intelligence agencies, believes that Russia would not want to publish these hacks if they obtained them, because companies would quickly patch their vulnerabilities and the information would soon be worthless to anyone trying to sell the data. He also brings up that the bad English used by the hackers seems to be phony. Furthermore, he suggests that the hacker(s) could be linked to the NSA’s Tailored Access Operations (TAO) which is a unit of the surveillance agency that gathers intelligence related to cyber-warfare. He states:
“Rather than the NSA hacking tools being snatched as a result of a sophisticated cyber operation by Russia or some other nation, it seems more likely that an employee stole them. Experts who have analyzed the files suspect that they date to October 2013, five months after Edward Snowden left his contractor position with the NSA and fled to Hong Kong carrying flash drives containing hundreds of thousands of pages of NSA documents.
So, if Snowden could not have stolen the hacking tools, there are indications that after he departed in May 2013, someone else did, possibly someone assigned to the agency’s highly sensitive Tailored Access Operations” (Reuters).
As of now, the “second Snowden” theory is just that – a theory. Most experts still say Russia is behind the hacks. Nevertheless, as Bamford puts it in his commentary – the “NSA may prove to be one of Washington’s greatest liabilities rather than assets.”