The group that apparently stole NSA-built cyber weapons have changed their business model from an auction to crowd-funding.
The hacker or hackers known as the Shadow Brokers are now offering to publicly release the source code once used in an NSA hacking operation known as the Equation Group in exchange for 10,000 bitcoin donations, or around $6.4 million.
In August, the Brokers announced they were auctioning the code. To drum up interest in the auction, they released samples containing numerous still-viable techniques to bypass multiple brands of security hardware. The sample files also contained tracking codes not known to the public that appear in leaked documents from Edward Snowden, seemingly verifying the code’s provenance.
“TheShadowBrokers is being bored with auction so no more auction. Auction off. Auction finish. Auction done. No winners,” wrote the Brokers in their announcement released Saturday.
In their last public communication, the Brokers complained they were not receiving bids as high as they had hoped. They originally set a target in the millions of dollars but had only reached around 0.1 percent of that goal.
Although the files appear to be authentic, many in the security community assumed the auction was still a scam. The Brokers had an unorthodox model: Bidders were urged to send the group bitcoins, and whoever sent the most would win, with no refunds to the losers. The auction did not have an end date. The Brokers would decide who won once they thought they received the money they deserved.
At the time the Brokers complained about bidding, they had only received around $1,000.
According to a Reuters report, the FBI believes the Brokers hacked the code from an off-site command and control server after an NSA analyst accidentally uploaded it and left it exposed.