The team of researchers at Kaspersky Lab who initially exposed the so-called Equation Group in 2015 today confirmed that several hundred of the purported tools leaked online have ties to that sophisticated hacker group.
The researchers found that a rare deployment of RC5/RC6 encryption in the files dumped online this week by the so-called "ShadowBrokers" matches that of the Equation Group. Kaspersky Lab has never confirmed Equation Group is the NSA -- it does not confirm attribution of groups -- but security experts say the two are one in the same.
ShadowBrokers claimed to have in its possession stolen Equation Group tools and files, which it has offered for sale online. Security experts for the past couple of days have been debating the authenticity of the leak, as well as just who may be behind it -- not to mention just how and when the National Security Agency (NSA) could have been breached.
"This code similarity makes us believe with a high degree of confidence that the tools from the ShadowBrokers leak are related to the malware from the Equation Group. While the ShadowBrokers claimed the data was related to the Equation Group, they did not provide any technical evidence of these claims. The highly specific crypto implementation above confirms these allegations," the Kaspersky Lab researchers wrote in a blog post today.
More than 300 of the files dumped by ShadowBrokers use the RC6 crypto implementation associated with the Equation Group. "There are more than 300 files in the Shadowbrokers’ archive which implement this specific variation of RC6 in 24 different forms. The chances of all these being faked or engineered is highly unlikely," the researchers said.
Former NSA analyst Blake Darche, who has been studying the leak, says the tools appear to be legitimate. Darche, CTO and co-founder of Area 1, says the backdoors and exploits in the dump include a tool called SecondDate that runs on Cisco PIX631 firewalls.