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Edward Snowden Confirms That NSA Data Leak Is Real

Monday, February 27th, 2017

In mid-August, a group of hackers rattled the cybersecurity landscape by releasing a big cache of exploits that were allegedly stolen from the NSA. The leaked scripts and tools exposed how the NSA was compromising the security of products created by Cisco, Juniper and Fortinet as well as demonstrated how the agency was attacking other governments and organizations with the help of custom made cyber weapons.

At the time of the leak, most security experts did not believe that the leaked code was from NSA’s arsenal. However, after few days many of them started to admit that the hack appeared to be genuine. Now, Edward Snowden has decided to put all such doubts to rest by releasing a new set of documents. The never seen before set of documents were published by the Intercept magazine and they conclusively prove that the information leaked by Shadow Brokers group is indeed real.

The most important information provided by Snowden is that hackers working for the NSA were instructed to use a special string value (“ace02468bdf13579”) to track the use of one of their specially crafted malwares. The 16-character string value appears both in the NSA’s top-secret manual as well as Second Date exploit leaked by the Shadow Brokers. This clearly shows that whoever was behind the creation and use of Second Date exploit had also read NSA’s internal manual.

Apart from the above link, there is another clue which suggests that the NSA hack is real. The agency had published a catalog of its top-secret tools in late 2013. Some of the tools and exploits released by the hackers (Jet Plow, Banaba Glee, Zessty Leak to name a few) bear the same name as the list of names contained in the catalog. This once again proves that people who leaked the attack tools also had access to the agency’s catalog.

Security experts have also pointed out that the leaked code appears to be extremely clean and professional. For instance, the code used in the exploits not only gains access into target systems, it also remembers to perform cleanup operations and close connections after the job was over. This clearly shows that the code was developed by sophisticated hackers exclusively for the use of a government agency. It must be mentioned here while most hackers are careful to hide their footprints, they do keep the backdoors open to extract more information from the hacked systems.

It is not yet clear who is behind the leak of the NSA data. While some experts have suggested that Russian or Chinese hackers are behind the theft, there is no proof available which supports this theory. It is now believed that the Shadow Brokers members extracted the information from a server where it was accidentally left behind by a NSA operative. This version is also supported by Snowden who tweeted that NSA operatives often hack into systems that are being used by others. So, if a hacker working for the agency hacks into a system but forgets to clean up his tracks afterwards, it can result in theft of sensitive data.

February 27, 2017

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