NSA malware menace: ‘If device is connected to internet, it can be broken into’
RT: The Equation Group is thought to be one of the most powerful hacker groups of our time. And all of a sudden, an obscure hacker or maybe hackers called the Shadow Brokers pop up claiming they have managed to get access to the Equation Group's cyber weapons. Do you believe the leaked materials are genuine? Doesn't it all look like a hoax?
Chris Kitze: It’s hard to know what’s real and what’s a hoax, but the fact is that you have people making these claims. If you look at some of the things that have been released, that have been reported in other media, and I don’t have any personal direct knowledge of this by the way, but what I’ve seen from the different leaks and people I’ve talked to, it is possible that it is somebody inside of the NSA, CIA, or some agency that’s been involved in doing some of these things.
RT: The Shadow Brokers claim that among the materials put up for auction there is malware even more powerful than the Stuxnet worm. What could it potentially be?
CK: There is a number of different pieces of malware that we’ve seen personally ourselves – on our machines that we had to clean out and completely restore the computers. Basically if your computer is connected to the internet, it doesn’t matter what kind of device it is. It doesn’t matter what you do – some of this malware is so powerful and so sophisticated, when you see the list of things they can do to get into things like Cisco Writers. There is a list of basically every make and model of every kind of device. And they have exploits to go and get inside of anything.
The general rule is – if it is connected to the internet, it can be broken into. That is the main message for everybody. Now, what can these things do? They can turn on your microphone; they can turn on your computer in the middle of the night; they can have complete access to everything on your computer, to all your files; they can put things on your computer so that they can frame you with things like child pornography. There is no limit to the things they can do. It is basically like someone else is in control of your computer. That is what is so frightening to people about this – is that if you have a computer with sensitive information on it, how do you defend yourself against this? That is the real question.
RT: So far the hackers' bitcoin wallet is still empty. Do you expect someone will ever place their bid in this auction?
CK: I don’t know. I doubt it. When someone asks for a million bitcoins, it seems to me like it is more of a publicity stunt. There are only a few people who can actually go and get a million bitcoins, even if you wanted to pay for it. And then, who is going to be in a position to do that? And it is basically government – it is about $500 or $600 million at today’s prices.
Who is going to be able to afford that? The only people who can afford that – Satoshi [Nakamoto], the person’s name, who started bitcoin, or possibly security agency, or some kind of a hacker group who has a way to break into the early bitcoins…
RT: Would it be a bit of an exaggeration to say that there's a cyberwar going on right now between various countries?
CK: There is definitely a cyberwar going on right now. In the US you’ve seen the manifestation – Delta Air Lines, their entire systems were taken down. Southwest Airlines – I was on a Southwest flight and I got delayed by a number of hours. They had a problem in the data center. When you see one of those things, you think: ‘Oh, ok, maybe they have a problem.’ But when you see two of them, you know that there is something going on. The banks… I’ve heard stories about Russian banks being compromised; American banks being compromised. It is a cyberwar going on, and some of it is done by criminal gangs; and some of it is being done as a state-sponsored kind of activity…
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