Russian government-backed hackers stole highly confidential US cyber secrets in 2015 from the National Security Agency, two news outlets reported on Thursday.
The theft allegedly happened after a contractor stored the information on his home personal computer.
News outlets that reported the theft cited no specific sources, although they claimed that the theft included information about the methods of penetrating foreign computer networks, and information about shielding against cyber attacks. If proven true, this is going to be viewed as one of the most significant digital security break-in in history.
This will also be another embarrassing hit on the NSA’s side after struggling with contractor security since the Snowden leaks. Harold Martin, an NSA contractor, was previously charged with taking home classified documents last year. However, media outlets that reported the incident clarified that the Martin case is not related to the latest rumor of a breach.
This summer, another NSA contractor, Reality Winner, was charged by the Justice Department with leaking classified documents concerning Russian election interference.
About the latest rumor, the NSA declined to issue a comment while citing a policy that says, “Never comment on our affiliates or personnel issues.”
“The NSA needs to get its head out of the sand and solve its contractor problem. Russia is a clear adversary is the cyberspace and we can’t afford these self-inflicted injuries,” said US Senator Ben Sasse, who is a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee. He emphasized that the details, if proven true, were alarming.
This explosive rumor comes amid the tension lurking in Washington over a string of alleged Russian hackings, including the targeting of state election agencies. Along with this, there is still the case of Russian meddling during the 2016 election, in which Kremlin-linked entities allegedly hacked Democratic Party computers to influence the outcome of the election in favor of the then Republican candidate Donald Trump.
Several social media companies are set to appear before two US governing bodies to testify regarding the alleged Russian interference.
Alleged Kaspersky Involvement
News outlets that circulated the reports of the latest hacking and theft allegations also said that the contractor who leaked the information used Kaspersky Lab antivirus software. Kaspersky lab is based in Moscow, Russia.
Kaspersky has previously suffered from a US government-imposed ban on its products last month because of suspicions that they help the Kremlin maneuver espionage operations in America, although the company has strongly and consistently denied those allegations.
Claiming that it has been caught in the middle of a geopolitical fight, Kaspersky said in a statement, “It is unfortunate that news coverage of unproven claims continue to perpetuate accusations about the company.”
On September 13, the Department of Homeland Security banned the Lab’s products in different federal networks, while the US Senate gave the green light to a bill that stops the federal government from using any Kaspersky product.
“The baffling parts are that he was able to get stuff out of the building and that he was using Kaspersky, despite where he worked,” said James Lewis, a cyber expert with the Washington-based Center for Strategic and International Studies. He said that the reports about the breach and theft appear to be credible enough, although he did not have firsthand information in relation to what had exactly happened.
“It’s a disservice to the public and our national security to continue withholding this information,” said Democratic Senator Jeanne Shaheen, who called on the Trump administration on Thursday to declassify information about threats posed by the Kaspersky Lab.
BWorldFinance is your primary source of news in the financial market, technology, and more. Visit bworldfinance.com now and get the latest happenings on the market.