- The Washington Times - Tuesday, August 16, 2016

WikiLeaks on Monday announced plans to release a collection of “cyber weapons” purportedly used by the National Security Agency following claims that hackers have breached a division of the NSA said to deal in electronic espionage.

“We had already obtained the archive of NSA cyber weapons released earlier today and will release our own pristine copy in due course,” WikiLeaks said through its official Twitter account Monday.

Individuals calling themselves the “Shadow Broker” claimed earlier in the week to have successfully compromised Equation Group — allegedly a hacking arm of the NSA — and offered to publicly release the pilfered contents in exchange for millions of dollars in bitcoins.

Shadow Broker has since released a sampling of files said to have originated from the Equation Group hack, and cybersecurity experts have said the evidence currently available lends credence to the claim that the files were indeed in the NSA’s arsenal of spy tools.

“This archive appears to contain a large fraction of the NSA’s implant framework for firewalls, including what appears to be several versions of different implants, server side utility scripts, and eight apparent exploits for a variety of targets,” said Nicholas Weaver, a senior networking and security researcher at Berkeley’s International Computer Science Institution.

“Because of the sheer volume and quality, it is overwhelmingly likely that this data is authentic,” he wrote in a blog post Tuesday.

Equation Group was attributed as a division of the NSA following the publication of a 2015 report released by Kaspersky Lab, a Moscow-based cybersecurity firm, in which the hacking unit was labeled “a threat actor that surpasses anything known in terms of complexity and sophistication of techniques.”

While Kaspersky declined to directly call the group a division of the NSA, similarities between the two projects including the tools and language used by each have led experts to conclude as much.

In a statement accompanying Shadow Broker’s release of a 134-megabyte teaser file, the alleged hackers behind the breach said they would release the “full state sponsor tool set” acquired from the Equation Group upon receiving 1 million bitcoin, or roughly $568 million. If WikiLeaks follows through, however, would-be donors may be inclined to keep their wallets closed for the time being.

WikiLeaks has repeatedly drew the ire of the federal government since the anti-secrecy website began publishing documents stolen from the U.S. State Dept. and Pentagon in 2010. More recently the website made headlines by releasing leaked Democratic National Committee emails, the likes of which led to the ousting of the party’s former chairwoman, Debbie Wasserman Schultz.

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