Hackers working for the Russian government stole details of how the U.S. penetrates foreign computer networks and defends against cyberattacks after a National Security Agency contractor removed the highly classified material and put it on his home computer, according to multiple people with knowledge of the matter.
The hackers appear to have targeted the contractor after identifying the files through the contractor’s use of a popular antivirus software made by Russia-based Kaspersky Lab, these people said.
The theft, which hasn’t been disclosed, is considered by experts to be one of the most significant security breaches in recent years. It offers a rare glimpse into how the intelligence community thinks Russian intelligence exploits a widely available commercial software product to spy on the U.S.
The incident occurred in 2015 but wasn’t discovered until spring of last year, said the people familiar with the matter.
The stolen material included details about how the NSA penetrates foreign computer networks, the computer code it uses for such spying and how it defends networks inside the U.S., these people said.
Having such information could give the Russian government information on how to protect its own networks, making it more difficult for the NSA to conduct its work. It also could give the Russians methods to infiltrate the networks of the U.S. and other nations, these people said.
The breach is the first known incident in which Kaspersky software is believed to have been exploited by Russian hackers to conduct espionage against the U.S. government. The company, which sells its antivirus products in the U.S., had revenue of more than half a billion dollars in Western Europe and the Americas in 2016, according to International Data Corp. By Kaspersky’s own account it has more than 400 million users world-wide.
The revelation comes as concern over Russian infiltration of American computer networks and social media platforms is growing amid a U.S. special counsel’s investigation into whether Donald Trump’s presidential campaign sought or received assistance from the Russian government. Mr. Trump denies any impropriety and has called the matter a “witch hunt.”
Intelligence officials have concluded that a campaign authorized by the highest levels of the Russian government hacked into state election-board systems and the email networks of political organizations to damage the candidacy of Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton.
A spokesman for the NSA didn’t comment on the security breach. “Whether the information is credible or not, NSA’s policy is never to comment on affiliate or personnel matters,” he said. He noted that the Defense Department, of which the NSA is a part, has a contract for antivirus software with another company, not Kaspersky.
In a statement, Kaspersky Lab said it “has not been provided any information or evidence substantiating this alleged incident, and as a result, we must assume that this is another example of a false accusation.”
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov in a statement didn’t address whether the Russian government stole materials from the NSA using Kaspersky software. But he criticized the U.S. government’s decision to ban the software from use by U.S. agencies as “undermining the competitive positions of Russian companies on the world arena.”
I've long said that Kaspersky Labs could have been a Putin intel front, I warned you guys about them two years ago and surprise, that's when the theft took place. Now we absolutely know that's the case, because the Russians have now hit us not just once (Edward Snowden), not just twice (Harold Martin) but now three times with this yet-to-be-named contractor who got his data hoovered up by Kaspersky Labs.
No wonder the Russians were able to pull off the soft coup of the century and install Donald Trump in the White House. They had the keys to the front door, back door, and every side door in sight, and every time they opened one they found more keys waiting to be handed over. And yeah, the guy who has to shoulder the blame for that?
Barack Obama. I'm sorry to say it, but he messed up. Badly. Fatally so, in fact. We'll be paying for this for the rest of my lifetime, I suspect. Once would be a mistake, twice is an unfortunate coincidence, but three times is enemy action as they say, and he got rolled along with our entire country.
He lost the first major war of the 21st century without firing a shot. Maybe that's harsh, but look at the hell we're in today. There's a lot of blame to go around, and he has to get his share of it.
Don't get me wrong, Donald Trump is a traitor, period. But Obama made this far too easy for Moscow to win.