- Jul 27, 2015
Quote : " Jake Williams awoke last April in an Orlando, Fla., hotel where he was leading a training session. Checking Twitter, Mr. Williams, a cybersecurity expert, was dismayed to discover that he had been thrust into the middle of one of the worst security debacles ever to befall American intelligence.
Mr. Williams had written on his company blog about the Shadow Brokers, a mysterious group that had somehow obtained many of the hacking tools the United States used to spy on other countries. Now the group had replied in an angry screed on Twitter. It identified him — correctly — as a former member of the National Security Agency’s hacking group, Tailored Access Operations, or T.A.O., a job he had not publicly disclosed. Then the Shadow Brokers astonished him by dropping technical details that made clear they knew about highly classified hacking operations that he had conducted.
America’s largest and most secretive intelligence agency had been deeply infiltrated.
“They had operational insight that even most of my fellow operators at T.A.O. did not have,” said Mr. Williams, now with Rendition Infosec, a cybersecurity firm he founded. “I felt like I’d been kicked in the gut. Whoever wrote this either was a well-placed insider or had stolen a lot of operational data.”
The jolt to Mr. Williams from the Shadow Brokers’ riposte was part of a much broader earthquake that has shaken the N.S.A. to its core. Current and former agency officials say the Shadow Brokers disclosures, which began in August 2016, have been catastrophic for the N.S.A., calling into question its ability to protect potent cyberweapons and its very value to national security. The agency regarded as the world’s leader in breaking into adversaries’ computer networks failed to protect its own.
“ These leaks have been incredibly damaging to our intelligence and cyber capabilities, ” said Leon E. Panetta, the former defense secretary and director of the Central Intelligence Agency. “ 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. ”
With a leak of intelligence methods like the N.S.A. tools, Mr. Panetta said, “ Every time it happens, you essentially have to start over. ”
Quote : " Inside the agency’s Maryland headquarters and its campuses around the country, N.S.A. employees have been subjected to polygraphs and suspended from their jobs in a hunt for turncoats allied with the Shadow Brokers. Much of the agency’s arsenal is still being replaced, curtailing operations. Morale has plunged, and experienced specialists are leaving the agency for better-paying jobs — including with firms defending computer networks from intrusions that use the N.S.A.’s leaked tools.
“ It’s a disaster on multiple levels, ” Mr. Williams said. “ It’s embarrassing that the people responsible for this have not been brought to justice. ”
In response to detailed questions, an N.S.A. spokesman, Michael T. Halbig, said the agency “ cannot comment on Shadow Brokers. ” He denied that the episode had hurt morale. “ N.S.A. continues to be viewed as a great place to work ; we receive more than 140,000 applications each year for our hiring program, ” he said.
Compounding the pain for the N.S.A. is the attackers’ regular online public taunts, written in ersatz broken English. Their posts are a peculiar mash-up of immaturity and sophistication, laced with profane jokes but also savvy cultural and political references. They suggest that their author — if not an American — knows the United States well.
“ Is NSA chasing shadowses? ” the Shadow Brokers asked in a post on Oct. 16, mocking the agency’s inability to understand the leaks and announcing a price cut for subscriptions to its “ monthly dump service ” of stolen N.S.A. tools. It was a typically wide-ranging screed, touching on George Orwell’s “ 1984 ” ; the end of the federal government’s fiscal year on Sept. 30 ; Russia’s creation of bogus accounts on Facebook and Twitter ; and the phenomenon of American intelligence officers going to work for contractors who pay higher salaries. "
Source : Security Breach and Spilled Secrets Have Shaken the N.S.A. to Its Core