Confirmed: hacking tool leak came from “omnipotent” NSA-tied group

The leak over the weekend of advanced hacking tools contains digital signatures that are almost identical to those in software used by the state-sponsored Equation Group, according to a just-published report from security firm Kaspersky Lab.

"While we cannot surmise the attacker's identity or motivation nor where or how this pilfered trove came to be, we can state that several hundred tools from the leak share a strong connection with our previous findings from the Equation group," Kaspersky researchers wrote in a blog post published Tuesday afternoon.

The finding is significant because it lends credibility to claims made by a mysterious group calling itself ShadowBrokers. When members of the previously unknown group claimed in a blog post that they hacked Equation Group and obtained never-before-seen exploits and implants it used, outsiders were understandably skeptical. The publication of state-sponsored hacking tools is an extremely rare if not unprecedented event that is sure to catch the attention of leaders all over the world.

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Snowden speculates leak of NSA spying tools is tied to Russian DNC hack

(credit: AK Rockefeller)

Two former employees of the National Security Agency—including exiled whistleblower Edward Snowden—are speculating that Monday's leak of what are now confirmed to be advanced hacking tools belonging to the US government is connected to the separate high-profile hacks and subsequent leaks of two Democratic groups.

Private security firms brought in to investigate the breach of the Democratic National Committee and a separate hack of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee have said that the software left behind implicates hackers tied to the Russian government. US intelligence officials have privately said they, too, have high confidence of Russian government involvement.

In the weeks following the reports, WikiLeaks and an unknown person using the moniker Guccifer 2.0 have published a steady stream of documents. One batch released just ahead of last month's Democratic National Convention contained embarrassing private conversations that led to the resignation of DNC Chair Debra Wasserman Schultz. A more recent installment included a spreadsheet detailing the cell phone numbers, e-mail addresses, and other personal information of every Democratic member of the House of Representatives. The Obama administration has signaled that it may impose new economic sanctions on Russia in response to what critics claim is Russian attempts to disrupt or influence the US presidential election.

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