Snowden suggests Russia behind NSA code hack

Snowden suggests Russia behind NSA code hack

National Security Agency (NSA) leaker Edward Snowden is backing a theory that Russia — not money-seeking hackers — is behind the release of possible NSA source code. 

The Shadow Brokers, a previously unknown hacking entity, and WikiLeaks have both announced they have copies of the source code used by a vaunted cyber espionage operation called the Equation Group. The Equation Group is widely believed to be connected to the NSA. 

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The Shadow Brokers are auctioning off the code, and WikLeaks says it will release it for free. 

In a series of tweets on Tuesday, Snowden said he believed the effort to expose the source code was a shot from Russian intelligence operatives meant to warn the NSA against publicly attributing recent cyberattacks on the Democratic Party to President Vladimir Putin.

“This leak is likely a warning that someone can prove US responsibility for any attacks that originated from [a specific] malware server,” Snowden tweeted.

The code was not necessarily taken from NSA headquarters. It could have been taken from an external command and control server running the Equation Group’s software. Being able to identify that server could implicate the NSA in a variety of other attacks around the world. 

“That could have significant foreign policy consequences. Particularly if any of those operations targeted US allies,” Snowden tweeted. 

He is not the first person to bring forward this idea, which has become a popular theory in the information security community. 

Many security experts agree that Russia was behind hacks targeting the Democratic National Committee and Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, and that the Obama administration is holding off from publicly blaming the country while officials contemplate the U.S.'s next move.

Russia’s role the military campaign against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria also makes it risky for the U.S. to shake the already fragile relationship between the countries.