Exploit as a service: Shadow Brokers offers subscription service for NSA hacks

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The notorious hacking group Shadow Brokers is back with a new moneymaking scheme that involves a subscription service to releases from its trove of hacked National Security Agency-related exploits.

The group has been gaining headlines lately thanks its previous release of Eternal Blue, the NSA-linked Windows SMB exploit that was used by those behind the WannaCry ransomware that spread across the globe in the past week.

The Shadow Brokers has previously attempted to raise funds from its range of hacked data. In August it asked for but failed to raise 1 million bitcoin (worth $568 million at the time) for the data. That was followed by an attempt to raise 10,000 bitcoin ($6.38 million) through crowdfunding. That also failed.

As a result, in January the group announced that it was “retiring.” But the retirement was short-lived as the group returned in April, ostensibly because of the Trump Administration’s decision to bomb Syria. Along with the Windows SMB exploit, the group also dumped a number of other working exploits for Windows machines ranging from XP up to Windows 8, some of which Microsoft Corp. had previously patched. That led to accusations that the tech giant had been given insider knowledge of at least some of the exploits from the NSA itself.

The Shadow Brokers’ latest attempts to make money from its trove of exploits could be described as an “exploit as a service” offering, or as described by the group, a sort of “wine of the month club.” As the group wrote: “Each month peoples can be paying membership fee, then getting members only data dump each month. What members doing with data after is up to members.”

Members are being promised exploits for web browsers, routers, smartphones, operating systems (notably including Windows 10), compromised data from banks and Swift providers and, in a strange twist, stolen network information from Russian, Chinese, Iranian and North Korean nuclear missile programs.

Adding an air of mystery to the offering is the failure to disclose one vital fact: how much it costs. That means there’s no way to guess whether the offering will be any more successful than the group’s previous attempts.

Further details, including the subscription cost, is promised to be released in June, but the group is still hoping for a larger payday. It added that “if a responsible party buys all lost data before it is sold, then Shadow Brokers will have no more financial incentives to be taking continued risks of operation and will go dark permanently.”

Photo: Purityofspirit/Wikimedia Commons