Skip to main content

Sign up for our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values. Direct to your inbox.

Corporate gatekeepers and big tech monopolists are making it more difficult than ever for independent media to survive. Please chip in today.

"This leak is likely a warning that someone can prove U.S. responsibility for any attacks that originated from this malware server," Snowden tweeted. "That could have significant foreign policy consequences." (Photo: AP/Patrick Semansky)

Snowden Calls 'Shadow Brokers' Hack of NSA Hackers 'Significant' Turn in Spy Wars

Calling leak of sophisticated spy tools unprecedented, whistleblower says things 'could get messy fast'

Nika Knight Beauchamp

The National Security Administration (NSA) was allegedly hacked by a mysterious group calling itself "The Shadow Brokers," and the "most powerful espionage tools" of the NSA's elite hacker team, as the Washington Post put it, were leaked to the internet this weekend.

The Post reported late Tuesday:

A cache of hacking tools with code names such as Epicbanana, Buzzdirection, and Egregiousblunder appeared mysteriously online over the weekend, setting the security world abuzz with speculation over whether the material was legitimate.

The file appeared to be real, according to former NSA personnel who worked in the agency's hacking division, known as Tailored Access Operations (TAO).

"Without a doubt, they're the keys to the kingdom," said one former TAO employee, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive internal operations. "The stuff you're talking about would undermine the security of a lot of major government and corporate networks both here and abroad.”

Said a second former TAO hacker who saw the file: "From what I saw, there was no doubt in my mind that it was legitimate."

"The exploits are not run-of-the-mill tools to target everyday individuals," the Post added. "They are expensive software used to take over firewalls, such as Cisco and Fortinet, that are used 'in the largest and most critical commercial, educational and government agencies around the world,' said Blake Darche, another former TAO operator and now head of security research at Area 1 Security."

In a series of tweets, noted NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden posited that Russia was behind the breach.

As Forbes observed: "He believes, as do others, that the timing of the leak is interesting. As many of the leaked files were dated mid-2013, the hackers have been sitting on the data for at least three years. It's only now the materials are being released, a matter of months after U.S. intelligence sources and American security companies claimed the Democratic National Committee (DNC) had been hacked by Russia. Snowden believes Russia is sending a warning on the dangers of attributing cyberattacks."

"This leak is likely a warning that someone can prove U.S. responsibility for any attacks that originated from this malware server," Snowden tweeted. "That could have significant foreign policy consequences. Particularly if any of those operations targeted U.S. allies."

Read Snowden's full theory here:


Our work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Feel free to republish and share widely.

We've had enough. The 1% own and operate the corporate media. They are doing everything they can to defend the status quo, squash dissent and protect the wealthy and the powerful. The Common Dreams media model is different. We cover the news that matters to the 99%. Our mission? To inform. To inspire. To ignite change for the common good. How? Nonprofit. Independent. Reader-supported. Free to read. Free to republish. Free to share. With no advertising. No paywalls. No selling of your data. Thousands of small donations fund our newsroom and allow us to continue publishing. Can you chip in? We can't do it without you. Thank you.

'Tax the Rich,' Say Millionaire Activists Protesting at Davos Amid Record Wealth, Inequality

"As someone who has enjoyed the benefits of wealth my whole life I know how skewed our economy is and I cannot continue to sit back and wait for someone, somewhere, to do something," said one demonstrator.

Brett Wilkins ·


Rights Group Urges Civilian Safeguards as Biden Sends Troops Back to Somalia

"A culture of impunity for civilian loss breeds resentment and mistrust among the population and undermines efforts to build a more rights-respecting state," Human Rights Watch's regional director asserted.

Brett Wilkins ·


Australian Progressives Hail 'Greenslide' Amid Big Left Wins and Morrison's Ouster

"People have backed the Greens in record numbers and delivered a massive mandate for action on climate and inequality," said party leader Adam Bandt.

Brett Wilkins ·


Omar Leads Charge Against Baby Formula Monopolies Amid US Shortage

Democrats urge the FTC to probe "any unfair or unsustainable practices, like deceptive marketing, price gouging, and stock buybacks, that may be weakening our nutritional formula supply."

Jessica Corbett ·


'Arbitrary, Racist, and Unfair': Judge Blocks Biden From Ending Title 42

"Only the coyotes profiteering off of people seeking protection have reason to celebrate this ill-reasoned ruling," said one migrant rights advocate.

Brett Wilkins ·

Common Dreams Logo