NSA HQ. Aerial photograph: Trevor Paglen/Creative Time/Wikipedia.

Since August, “TheShadowBrokers” have been claiming that they had acquired NSA hacking tools through a breach of the Equation Group, which is believed to be an offshoot of the NSA. After offering what appears to be proof of the tools’ legitimacy, they announced that they wanted a million dollars for the rest of their information. They now seem to be pissed that no one wants to pony up.


In a strange, rambling post on Medium this morning, the brokers explained that the best offer has been about $1,082 in Bitcoin.

“TheShadowBrokers is thinking this is information communication problem,” the post says; meaning that they need more media pickup, I assume. “Peoples is having interest in free files,” the post continues. “But people is no interest in #EQGRP_Auction.” I’ll assume this means they’ve had some interested parties but no one willing to actually pay the exorbitant asking price.

It’s still unknown whether TheShadowBrokers have real NSA tools for sale. Edward Snowden thinks it’s likely and various computer security experts have said that the released documents are legitimate.


Last week, Reuters supported a theory that the files may have been found by Russian hackers on a “mistakenly” abandoned remote server. The news agency also reported that “NSA officials have told investigators that an employee or contractor made the mistake about three years ago during an operation that used the tools, the people said.”

In 1984, Steven Levy outlined the six tenets of what he called the “hacker ethic.” Number two was: “All information should be free.” But thirty years later we live in a wilder, dirtier world and ethical hacking is for chumps.

At this point, it’s hard not to think of TheShadowBrokers as your friend’s friend with a band that no one wants to listen to who refuses to “give away” his music for free on Spotify.