Leak in-house? NSA data dump could be work of insider
The leak of tools used by the NSA’s elite hacking team has resulted in speculation and finger-pointing in a desperate attempt to identify who could have exposed the government agency’s secrets. But one source says it was an inside job.
The chances of a hacker remotely breaking into the National Security Agency’s systems are very unlikely, according to an anonymous insider who spoke to Motherboard.
Despite accusations that the leak is Russia’s meddling, the data dropped online under the name “the Shadow Brokers” would have required someone with the ability to access the NSA’s server, the former NSA employee told the news outlet.
The source raised points that suggest the hack was actually a leak, such as the “naming convention of the file directories, as well as some of the scripts in the dump,” as they “are only accessible internally.”
Additionally, the source claimed that “there is no reason” for the files to even be hacked, because the server they originated in were not even connected to the internet.
However, Matt Suiche, the CEO of a Dubai-based cybersecurity company, wrote that the problem with this theory is that the NSA exposed the hacking tools on a server.
“Making a mistake is not impossible,” for the Tailored Access Operation (TAO) – the NSA’s hacking team, Suiche noted.
While this is only a theory, the insider explained that they shared it to put international hacking theories in perspective.
“We are 99.9 percent sure that Russia has nothing to do with this and even though all this speculation is more sensational in the media, the insider theory should not be dismissed,” the source said, adding, 'We think it is the most plausible.'”
This has been the summer of blaming Russia for hacks, but the source told Motherboard that he needed to share the alternative theory because of the risks of increasing international tensions.
“Now seeing what's being paraded in the media like the wildly speculative attribution to Russia, I feel a personal responsibility to propose the more plausible theory on behalf of me and the rest of the guys like me,” he said. “I think it's dangerous to point fingers when they shouldn't be. That could have real implications that affect real people.”
If this were the work of an insider, it would not be the first time an NSA contractor turned on the agency – remember Edward Snowden?
Another former NSA worker told Motherboard that it wouldn’t be impossible for an insider to leave with a USB drive in their pocket. The source also noted that it would be easier for an insider to burn a CD with information than it would be for a hacker to access their servers.