In the biggest hack of the NSA since the Snowden scandal in 2013, in mid-August we reported that a mysterious group calling itself the “Shadow Brokers” had managed to hack the NSA’s Equation Group – a government cyberattack hacking group associated with the NSA, and released a bunch of the organization’s hacking tools. The “group” also notably said that if it received 1,000,000 Bitcoins, worth roughly $560 million at the time, it would release all the hacked files. With the breach taking place shortly after the infamous hack of the DNC by Guccifer 2.0, speculation promptly swirled that this was another covert Russian operation, with even Edward Snowden chiming in.
However, it now appears this particular jump to conclusions was premature.
As the NYT reported moments ago, an NSA contractor, Harold Thomas Martin III, age 51, from Glen Burnie, MD was arrested on August 29th, with the FBI investigating whether he is the party responsible for stealing and disclosing highly classified computer codes developed to hack into the networks of foreign governments.
This latest theft of secret data by an insider raises the embarrassing prospect that for the second time in three years a disgruntled employee has managed to steal highly damaging secret information from the N.S.A. In 2013, Edward Snowden, who was also a contractor for the agency, took a vast trove of documents that were later passed to journalists, exposing vast NSA surveillance programs in the United States and abroad.
The information believed stolen by this contractor, who like Snowden worked for the consulting firm Booz Allen Hamilton which is responsible for building and operating many of the agency’s most sensitive cyberoperations, appears to be different in nature from Mr. Snowden’s theft the NYT adds.
The contractor arrested in recent weeks is suspected of taking the highly classified “source code” developed by the agency to break into computer systems of adversaries like Russia, China, Iran and North Korea. Two officials said that some of the information the contractor is suspected of taking was dated.
Predictably, moments ago Edward Snowden chimed in with a tweet, stating that “This is huge. Did the FBI secretly arrest the person behind the reports NSA sat on huge flaws in US products? “
This is huge. Did the FBI secretly arrest the person behind the reports NSA sat on huge flaws in US products? https://t.co/otgOwB5efm
— Edward Snowden (@Snowden) October 5, 2016
In other words, the entity behind “Shadow Brokers” appears to have been found, and as we speculated, the hack been confirmed to be the work of a “rogue insider” and not of Putin. That said, we now await to see what other notable upcoming hacks will be blamed, as usual, on the Kremlin.