A hacker group, The Shadow Brokers, is asking for a bitcoin ransom to release exploits it says have been stolen from the Equation Group, a group of hackers widely believed to be sponsored by the National Security Agency (NSA).
The Shadow Brokers leaked what they say is some of the data, apparently as a teaser ahead of an online auction of a much larger portion of data.
The teaser data released apparently includes a trove of valuable data, including exploits designed to compromise firewalls. It was released together with a FAQ and a set of instructions for the auction.
The group is asking bidders to send bitcoins to a specific address, and the party that send the most before bidding stops will get the key to decrypt the data.
The Shadow Brokers say they’ll release the files only to the winning bidder and not to the public.
The compressed data is a little over 256Mb and contains both the teaser data and the data being auctioned. While both are encrypted, the Shadow Brokers only provided the password for the teaser data, and only the auction winners will presumably receive the password for the rest.
Among The FAQs from The Shadow Brokers is the following: “If you like free files (proof), you send bitcoin. If you want know your networks hacked, you send bitcoin. If you want hack networks as like equation group, you send bitcoin. If you want reverse, write many words, make big name for self, get many customers, you send bitcoin. If want to know what we take, you send bitcoin.”
However, the group says only the winning bidder will receive the decryption key: other bidders will pay their bitcoins but not receive anything for them.
There is an incentive built in, though. As a “consolation prize”, the hackers say they’ll make more unencrypted Equation Group files publicly available if the action raises 1-million bitcoins.