Only a day after it was revealed that Russia likely hacked the mobile phones NATO troops serving in Eastern Europe, there are new details emerging about a cyber attack much closer to home. Hackers working on behalf of the Russian government stole secret details of the NSA's offensive and defensive cyber capabilities. The information was obtained after an NSA contractor breached protocol and placed the highly classified material on his home computer. The hackers then exploited the Kaspersky antivirus software running on that home computer to exfiltrate the files.
The incident occurred in 2015, was discovered in the spring of last year, and has now become public. With this new knowledge, the Russian government has the ability to better protect their networks from US hacks and more easily infiltrate the networks of other nations.
The NSA, as has always been their policy, neither confirmed or denied that the hack took place. Kaspersky Labs, the Russian makers of the antivirus software, said that they have "not been provided any information or evidence substantiating this alleged incident."
Although the many agencies in the US government are switching away from Kaspersky software, this is the first known incident of the software being exploited to allow cyber espionage against the US. Kaspersky operates in a more aggressive way than other antivirus systems by copying large amounts of your personal files to allow them to be scanned for possible malware. This is hidden deep in the license agreement that most people skip over and essentially gives up your right to privacy when you install it.
The identity of the contractor at the center of this is not known publicly, but sources close to the issue have told the Wall Street Journal that members of Congress were informed and the incident was given a code name. It is believed that he took the files home to conduct extra work beyond normal business hours and never worked for a foreign government. Although his intentions appear to be have been good, he was still aware that it was a violation of protocol.