Shadow Brokers auction of The Equation Group’s exploits – almost too good not to be true

by Chris Zappone

In this climate, it’s fair to say that if the Shadow Brokers weren’t selling off the Equation Group goodies, a good half of the internet would believe they were, anyway.

Because the new rules of the game are all about seizing the moral high ground on the internet. (For full details on the event see here.)

If you don’t think that’s what the Snowden story has been about, you clearly weren’t paying attention to the international politics. If you can’t see WikiLeaks reputation sinking since the DNC Leak, as it scrambles to damage American democracy and politicians, you’re probably really not paying attention there, either.

Capture

A man claiming the high ground in 1960

If you can’t see how authoritarians benefit as democracies spend considerable time in damage control of their reputations (beyond self-inflicted wounds) – you’re not paying attention. Remember Snowden’s crusade for privacy, the offense of the NSA and Uncle Sam: where are privacy’s defenders as the hacked voicemails of innocents are being published online?

In the case of the so-called Shadow Brokers, they appear to be selling off goodies. There is clearly a huge audience of people who want to believe they can buy NSA-made exploits.

The Equation Group is real.

“Kaspersky attributes EQUATION Group to the United States National Security Agency; however, definitive evidence of attribution remains absent,” according to the Institute for Critical Infrastructure Technology, which classifies the hacking group under “America” in its geographical breakdown.

But we are in a moment when an information war against the US has blown open, almost into full view. Forces hostile to Western democracy don’t even play coy anymore. WikiLeak’s “reward” for information on the death of a DNC staffer, a conspiracy theory which seems to suggest Seth Rich was killed because he was a source of the DNC Leaks, comes to mind. But also the fact that if you want to see the talking points of Trump fans, just tune into RT or Sputnik.

There will be speculation for some time where Equation Group information came from, although one expert has tweeted he doesn’t believe the NSA itself got hacked.

Although, again, it is certainly fun for people to think the NSA has been hacked. In the same way, revolutionary parties in the developed world were encouraged to see themselves in a battle with the US “empire” during the Cold War.

It reminds me of the Snowden releases – and the outrage encouraged by certain parties, about the revelations of the NSA’s hacking of Brazil’s state-owned oil company Petrobras. Wasn’t it US hypocrisy? Didn’t the NSA hack of Petrobas prove the US was involved in economic cyberespionage in the same way the US had long accused China?

Well, actually….A few years after the NSA hacks of Petrobras came to light, global oil prices crashed, Petrobras is at the center of a political scandal that draws up huge parts of the Brazil’s political elite. Brazil’s political future, on the eve of the Rio Olympics, is uncertain and unsure.

Just the kind of things any spy agency, including one in Washington, would be trying to learn from afar. In other words, just the sort of legitimate international political target for electronic spying.

And yet now no one makes that point.

All that is remembered is the outrage for the misunderstood spying disclosed by Snowden.

Like a correction running in a newspaper, page 13 no one remembers the back down. People only remember the accusation and how it forms part of the mosaic of outrage felt by the global self-selected info security crowd.

And this, I suspect, could also be the value of the Equation Group exploit auction. Or at least side benefit.

Shadow Brokers is a reminder of outrage from the Snowden revelations. It would certainly have as much value as whatever bitcoin can be generated by the sale of the exploits.

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