By Joshua Steier
Technology & Innovation Writer
“The oldest and strongest emotion of mankind is fear, and the oldest and strongest kind of fear is fear of the unknown”- H.P. Lovecraft
The uncertainty that looms over the issue involving the acquisition and auctioning of a NSA cyber weapon inspires a great amount of fear. A group called the “Shadow Brokers” admitted that they stole cyber weapons from the Equation Group.
The Equation Group is a group of highly sophisticated individuals that cause cyber-attacks and security breaches throughout the world.
It is widely believed that the Equation Group has ties to the NSA and is suspected of being involved in the creation of Stuxnet, which was the computer worm developed to attack Iran’s nuclear program.
The Shadow Brokers allegedly hacked the system, in order to obtain cyber weapons.
The exact methodology the Shadow Brokers used is still unknown, but it’s widely believed that they used components from an already insecure system in order to hack the Equation Group.
The Shadow Brokers are auctioning these cyber weapons to the highest bidder using a secure cryptocurrency system called Bitcoin. In this auction, the losers do not obtain their Bitcoin back, so there’s more at stake.
Bitcoin was designed and is used to serve as a means of payment where discretion is needed.
Additionally, the group of hackers released about half of what they stole on public file-sharing websites, but have kept the other half for the auction. The winner of the auction gains the decryption key that will allow the plaintext to be recovered.
One possible culprit for these actions is Russia. Edward Snowden offered advice, saying that it was Russia that committed this crime.
Due to the lack of knowledge on the Shadow Brokers, Russia might be to blame for this problem. Tech Insider cites Snowden’s writings on this latest breach, noting his words, “Circumstantial evidence and conventional wisdom indicates Russian responsibility… This leak looks like somebody sending a message that an escalation in the attribution game could get messy fast.”
The problem of espionage and utilization of spies to obtain information from other countries isn’t novel. In fact, in October of 2013, the NSA was suspected of spying on French President Francois Hollande and German chancellor Angela Merkel.
Although spying on allies and other countries is not new, certain instances are unique.
Theoretically, if Russia was to blame for the cyber-attack, then this action would be sending a message to the United States.
Even though other countries will face the blame for this action, the future remains largely uncertain.
A version of this article appeared in the Tuesday, September 13th print edition.
Contact Joshua at