Russian hackers seem to be on the forefront of all the news lately – after all, who can forget about the supposed “meddling” in 2016 that helped Donald Trump become a president? And now, additional details about their activities have become known. According to an article published by The Wall Street Journal, they got hold of the information that explains how the National Security Agency gains access to computer networks overseas and protects those in the USA by exploiting an NSA contractor’s use of security software made by Kaspersky. The sources wished to remain anonymous, but they possess knowledge of the matter.
According to them, this data was stolen by hackers in 2015. And they haven’t just broken into the NSA network – its contractor transferred it to his home computer first. The code the NSA employs to break into computer networks of other countries was contained within this information. And identifying this material became possible by exploiting Kaspersky Lab’s software. The US government agencies are forbidden from using it, as it supposedly helps Russian intelligence receive the sensitive information that could be used in cyber spying.
WSJ’s report also notes that it wasn’t even known that any theft took place. This fact only came to light in early 2016 and, as a matter of fact, still hasn’t been disclosed. And the fate of the NSA contractor also remains unclear at the moment – he could’ve been terminated. Or, perhaps, he’s now facing repercussions for removing classified information without permission. This is a direct violation of NSA’s policy and the contractor could be faced with criminal charges as a result. And the breach itself was so serious that it set off alarms among top national security officials.
Kaspersky Lab, however, maintains that it has not been provided with any information concerning the reported incident. The company also says that it’s just another example in the long line of false accusations directed towards Russia. And while this may be true, it’s important to remember that there’re two sides to every story. And the Russians could very well have been receiving classified data – just like the Americans are doing. And NSA is keeping silent, as doing otherwise would go against its policy of not commenting on affiliate or personnel matters.
It should also be added that the employee involved was a Vietnamese national who had worked at Tailored Access Operations. This is the elite hacking division which, as has been mentioned above, is responsible for developing tools that allows NSA to break into foreign computer networks. And this data breach made it possible for the Russian government to see cyber spying from the USA, track the country’s activities and thwart defensive measures. However, the breach didn’t involve Harold T. Martin III, who is also a former NSA contractor and has been arrested last year for carrying out what is said to be the largest theft of classified information in the history of the USA.
So, as of now, there’s another chapter being written in the long saga of the conflict between Russia and USA which has begun in 2014. There’re no indications of it stopping any time soon and only time will tell what methods both sides will use to try and come out a winner. And, whether Kaspersky is responsible for the latest data breach or not, as the whole story isn’t yet known, it shouldn’t be forgotten that the NSA also has a long history of eavesdropping on telephone and other communications. So it’s only logical for other countries to try and retaliate.