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NSA hacking tools were likely stolen after an operative accidentally left them on a computer

Published Sep 23rd, 2016 5:30PM EDT
NSA Hacking Tools
Image: Shutterstock

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Though the NSA would prefer to fly underneath the radar, the controversial intelligence agency just can’t seem to escape the spotlight in recent months. A few weeks ago, a group of hackers allegedly stole an impressively large number of NSA hacking tools and exploits and put them up for sale. Upon close inspection, a number of security experts went on record and confirmed that the leaked exploits were, in fact, from the NSA’s vast toolkit.

When word of the leak broke, some in the intelligence community initially feared that they were facing another Edward Snowden situation. As it turns out, it now appears that the leaked exploits were probably the result of human error. Embarrassingly, an investigation into the matter has revealed that a NSA operative may have inadvertently left the hacking tools in question on a remote computer, effectively leaving it behind as a gift to whomever discovered it.

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Reuters reports:

A U.S. investigation into a leak of hacking tools used by the National Security Agency is focusing on a theory that one of its operatives carelessly left them available on a remote computer and Russian hackers found them, four people with direct knowledge of the probe told Reuters.

Interestingly enough, a U.S. operative is said to have left the hacking tools behind about three years ago. In the wake of that incident, the NSA opted not to reach out to software and hardware companies with products that were left vulnerable to the now “out in the open” hacking tools.

Now as to whether or not the aforementioned operative left the tools behind purposefully or not is a question that investigators are still trying to answer.

“Another possibility,” according to the report, “is that more than one person at the headquarters or a remote location made similar mistakes or compounded each other’s missteps.”



Yoni Heisler Contributing Writer

Yoni Heisler has been writing about Apple and the tech industry at large with over 15 years of experience. A life long expert Mac user and Apple expert, his writing has appeared in Edible Apple, Network World, MacLife, Macworld UK, and TUAW.

When not analyzing the latest happenings with Apple, Yoni enjoys catching Improv shows in Chicago, playing soccer, and cultivating new TV show addictions.