|Probe of Leaked U.S. NSA Hacking Tools Examines Operative's ‘Mistake’
|Monday September 26 2016, @07:29AM
|from the whoopsie-daisy dept.
Arthur T Knackerbracket has found the following story:
The tools, which enable hackers to exploit software flaws in computer and communications systems from vendors such as Cisco Systems and Fortinet Inc, were dumped onto public websites last month by a group calling itself Shadow Brokers.
The public release of the tools coincided with U.S. officials saying they had concluded that Russia or its proxies were responsible for hacking political party organizations in the run-up to the Nov. 8 presidential election. On Thursday, lawmakers accused Russia of being responsible.
Various explanations have been floated by officials in Washington as to how the tools were stolen. Some feared it was the work of a leaker similar to former agency contractor Edward Snowden, while others suspected the Russians might have hacked into NSA headquarters in Fort Meade, Maryland.
But officials heading the FBI-led investigation now discount both of those scenarios, the people said in separate interviews.
NSA officials have told investigators that an employee or contractor made the mistake about three years ago during an operation that used the tools, the people said.
That person acknowledged the error shortly afterward, they said. But the NSA did not inform the companies of the danger when it first discovered the exposure of the tools, the sources said. Since the public release of the tools, the companies involved have issued patches in the systems to protect them.
Investigators have not ruled out the possibility that the former NSA person, who has since departed the agency for other reasons, left the tools exposed deliberately. Another possibility, two of the sources said, is that more than one person at the headquarters or a remote location made similar mistakes or compounded each other's missteps.
Representatives of the NSA, the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the office of the Director of National Intelligence all declined to comment.
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