The group known as the Shadow Brokers claims to have obtained cyber surveillance tools used by US secret services. They auction them for 1 million BTC. The provenance of the hackers is under discussion.

According to the Shadow Brokers, the software auctioned was developed and used by the Equation Group, which is believed to have links with the US National Security Agency. The tools likely allegedly served to break into firewall software used by various countries.

Some of the files have been put online while others are offered to the highest bidder. The auction has no date limit, the hackers saying they will stop it when they “feel is time to end.” The ceiling set outrageously high – 1 million bitcoins (more than half a billion US dollars). Moreover, those who do not win the auction will not have their money back. However, if the target is met, the group promises a “consolation prize” – to dump more Equation Group files for free.

The statement, originally posted on Tumblr, is now inaccessible but its copy is available in a Reddit thread. It is written in poor English and contains a message to the “wealthy elites”:

“Elites is making laws protect self and friends, lie and fuck other peoples. Elites is breaking laws, regular peoples go to jail, life ruin, family ruin, but not Elites. Elites is breaking laws, many peoples know Elites guilty, Elites call top friends at law enforcement and government agencies… Elites top friends announce, no law broken, no crime commit… Then Elites runs for president. Why run for president when already control country like dictatorship?.. If Equation Group lose control of cyber weapons, who else lose or find cyber weapons? If electronic data go bye bye where leave Wealthy Elites?.. Wealthy Elites, you send bitcoins, you bid in auction, maybe big advantage for you?”

The Redditor theplott reacted:

“Boy, that whole message screams Slavic native thrashing around in English.”

The user NyupDeddyXMTN answered:

“Thats what they want you to think… Sounds the opposite: Screams English trying to appear to be Slavic.”

Dave Aitel, a former NSA research scientist, believes that Russia is indeed behind the attack, and, as Foreign Policy puts it, “we are witnessing a small part of the shadow war playing out between Washington and Moscow.” The opinion is shared by Edward Snowden: in his Twitter feed, he declared that “circumstantial evidence and conventional wisdom indicates Russian responsibility.” He believes the hack is a diplomatic move, “a warning that someone can prove US responsibility for any attacks that originated from this malware server.” According to him,

However, as the files put online seemingly date from 2013, some Redditors suspect Snowden himself of the leak.

Moreover, it is not obvious that the files put on auction pose any real threat. The researchers who studied the samples put online by the hackers came to the cоnclusion that they “could be used” but are unlikely “to cause any significant operational damage.” (NDTV)

According to the Redditor __Yn,

“Even if this isn't as big as it seems it may be, I hope this will at least reinvigorate the anger about the illegal spying. Whether or not people were comfortable with the US Gov't snooping, far fewer will be comfortable with it if they believe that the information will be vulnerable.”

At the press time, the bitcoin address supplied by the Shadow Group has received fifteen transactions, totalling 1.629 bitcoins, about one six hundred-thousandth of the expected sum.


Alexey Tereshchenko