The tool used – called EternalBlue – has been used by hackers in North Korea, Russia and China to “cut a path of destruction around the world”, and resulted in billions of dollars in damages.
Now, it has come full circle and is back in the US, wreaking havoc just miles from Washington. In fact, security experts say that attacks using EternalBlue have soared and cyber-criminals are honing in on vulnerable towns and cities, using it to paralyze governments. The NSA’s connection to the attacks had previously not been reported and the NSA hasn’t commented about it since an unidentified group leaked the weapon online in April 2017.
The NSA and the FBI still don’t know whether or not it was leaked by foreign spies or US insiders.
The leak has been referred to as “the most destructive and costly N.S.A. breach in history,” by Thomas Rid, a cybersecurity expert at Johns Hopkins University. He continued: “The government has refused to take responsibility, or even to answer the most basic questions. Congressional oversight appears to be failing. The American people deserve an answer.”
An answer that we’re sure they won’t get. ….
Commenting on the leak in April 2017, Edward Snowden said that the “NSA just lost control of its Top Secret arsenal of digital weapons; hackers leaked it.“
Jen Miller-Osborn, a deputy director of threat intelligence at Palo Alto Networks said: “You can’t hope that once the initial wave of attacks is over, it will go away. We expect EternalBlue will be used almost forever, because if attackers find a system that isn’t patched, it is so useful.”
Until about a decade ago, these tools belonged to the NSA only. In fact, they had coined the term “NOBUS”, which stood for “nobody but us” – meaning the NSA thought the vulnerabilities were theirs alone to exploit. But that advantage wore off due to the leaks and because of the fact that anyone can grab the code to a cyber-weapon once it’s posted online.
FBI and Homeland security officials told the New York Times that more accountability at the NSA was needed. A former FBI official said that the leak was akin to the government failing to lock it up “a warehouse of automatic weapons”.
Unfortunately, there doesn’t seem to be accountability at the NSA. Adm. Michael S. Rogers, who was director of the N.S.A. during the leak said: “If Toyota makes pickup trucks and someone takes a pickup truck, welds an explosive device onto the front, crashes it through a perimeter and into a crowd of people, is that Toyota’s responsibility? The N.S.A. wrote an exploit that was never designed to do what was done.”
Microsoft views the situation very differently. Tom Burt, the corporate vice president of consumer trust said: “I disagree completely. These exploits are developed and kept secret by governments for the express purpose of using them as weapons or espionage tools. They’re inherently dangerous. When someone takes that, they’re not strapping a bomb to it. It’s already a bomb.”