Since 1952, the United States’ National Security Agency has been finding wants to listen in on people’s communications around the world, and with the rise of the internet the NSA has been researching hacking techniques. And the agency became quite good at hacking, having a range of software, malware, ransomware and other nasties at the ready to get into someone’s system to find information or cause havoc.
NSA’s Security Problem
A problem with computer security, whatever the agency or company, government or private, is that it seems nothing can be secured. The NSA found this out when a group known as The Shadow Brokers started a dump online of the NSA’s hacking tools. One of these hacking tools was used to hold people’s computers for ransom, blocking the user from using their system or having access to their information.
Former defence secretary and director of the CIA, Leon E. Panetta has said that “These leaks have been incredibly damaging to our intelligence and cyber capabilities. The fundamental purpose of intelligence is to be able to effectively penetrate our adversaries in order to gather vital intelligence. By its very nature, that only works if secrecy is maintained and our codes are protected.”
An open secret
Now, the secrecy surrounding the tools the NSA uses is gone, and they must start over to create new cyber weapons. However, an issue there remains security. The NSA have no idea who stole the hacking tools, if it was an inside job or an outside hacker, and if it was an outside hacker where they were based or who, if anyone, hired them to carry out the dirty work.
The Shadow Brokers are taunting US officials online, asking if they’re chasing shadows and regularly making posts about what’s to come. Russia is a prime suspect, but no other information has been released as to if there’s any specifics to the belief.
What does this mean for the NSA?
Within the NSA itself, there’s a morale problem. The employees are all being treated as suspects in the investigation. Many aren’t too happy with being treated as a possible perpetrator. Considering that employees with computer hacking and security skills are highly sort after and the NSA is good experience on a resume, many are moving into the private sector where they’re better paid and can live without the fear of interrogation from the NSA.
What the NSA does next, what plans the Shadow Brokers have for any more hacking tools or information they have or who committed the leak or the hack are questions waiting to be answered.