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Monday, 22 July 2019 11:06

Ex-NSA man Martin sentenced, Shadow Brokers' identity unknown

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Ex-NSA man Martin sentenced, Shadow Brokers' identity unknown Pixabay

With the sentencing of former NSA contractor Harold Martin to nine years in prison for taking huge amounts of company data home, the identity of the Shadow Brokers, the group which leaked numerous NSA exploits on the Web three years ago, still remains unknown.

Speculation about Martin being the source from whom the Brokers obtained the exploits was fanned by American freelance reporter Kim Zetter in an article published by the website Politico in January.

In that article, Zetter claimed that Martin had communicated via Twitter with researchers at Russian security firm Kaspersky (then Kaspersky Lab), who had then tipped off the NSA that he might be worth investigating.

Martin faced a total of 200 years in jail — 10 years for each of the 20 counts against him — but his lawyers reached a plea deal with the US Government to keep it down to nine years in all.

Late last year, another ex-NSA worker, Nghia Hoang Pho, was sentenced to 5½ years in jail, followed by three years of supervised release, for taking national defence information home from 2010 to 2015 and retaining it at his residence.

In Pho's case, too, there were hints that he might be a link to the Shadow Brokers. At least one media report claimed exploits from Pho's PC had been exfiltrated by Russian hackers who then released them, either through the Shadow Brokers, or by themselves under the same name.

For nearly three years now, the NSA's counter-intelligence arm, the Q Group, and the FBI have been investigating to try and find out how the exploits, created by the NSA's Tailored Access Operations group, leaked to the outside world.

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Sam Varghese

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Sam Varghese has been writing for iTWire since 2006, a year after the site came into existence. For nearly a decade thereafter, he wrote mostly about free and open source software, based on his own use of this genre of software. Since May 2016, he has been writing across many areas of technology. He has been a journalist for nearly 40 years in India (Indian Express and Deccan Herald), the UAE (Khaleej Times) and Australia (Daily Commercial News (now defunct) and The Age). His personal blog is titled Irregular Expression.

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