A National Security Agency breach that actually took place several years ago is still having repercussions today as more and more damaging information comes out.
A group called the Shadow Brokers has been strategically leaking information and publicly identifying people whose job descriptions and projects were classified since late summer of 2016:
Current and former agency officials say the Shadow Brokers disclosures, which began in August 2016, have been catastrophic for the N.S.A., calling into question its ability to protect potent cyberweapons and its very value to national security. The agency regarded as the world's leader in breaking into adversaries’ computer networks failed to protect its own.
“These leaks have been incredibly damaging to our intelligence and cyber capabilities,” said Leon E. Panetta, the former defense secretary and director of the Central Intelligence Agency. “The fundamental purpose of intelligence is to be able to effectively penetrate our adversaries in order to gather vital intelligence. By its very nature, that only works if secrecy is maintained and our codes are protected.”
In the months since, the NSA has been working to recover the cyberweapons stolen in that breach — and when a Russian figure came forward offering to deliver them, the NSA made a deal. It agreed to pay $1 million and delivered the first $100,000 cash payment in a suitcase to a hotel in Berlin.
In addition to the cyberweapons, however, the Russian promised “compromising” information that could damage President Donald Trump — information that the American spies say they told him they did not want.
But according to The New York Times, the whole deal fell through — leaving the American spies out $100,000 and short the promised cyberweapons:
Several American intelligence officials said they made clear that they did not want the Trump material from the Russian, who was suspected of having murky ties to Russian intelligence and to Eastern European cybercriminals. He claimed the information would link the president and his associates to Russia. Instead of providing the hacking tools, the Russian produced unverified and possibly fabricated information involving Mr. Trump and others, including bank records, emails and purported Russian intelligence data.
Those involved said that they initially became wary that the deal was not on the up and up because the Russian insisted so heavily on including the compromising information he claimed to have on Trump and then quickly dropped his asking price from $10 million to $1 million when the Americans began to lose interest.
Steven L. Hall, the former chief of Russia operations at the CIA, pointed out the real challenge in dealing with Russian informants: “The distinction between an organized criminal and a Russian intelligence officer and a Russian who knows some Russian intel guys — it all blurs together.”
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