(credit: Shadow Brokers)

In what security experts say is either a one-of-a-kind breach or an elaborate hoax, an anonymous group has published what it claims are sophisticated software tools belonging to an elite team of hackers tied to the US National Security Agency.

In a recently published blog post, the group calling itself Shadow Brokers claims the leaked set of exploits were obtained after members hacked Equation Group (the post has since been removed from Tumblr, but a cached version here was still available as this post was going live). Last year, Kaspersky Lab researchers described Equation Group as one of the world’s most advanced hacking groups, with ties to both the Stuxnet and Flame espionage malware platforms. The compressed data accompanying the Shadow Broker post is slightly bigger than 256 megabytes and purports to contain a series of hacking tools dating back to 2010. While it wasn’t immediately possible for outsiders to prove the posted data—mostly batch scripts and poorly coded python scripts—belonged to Equation Group, there was little doubt the data have origins with some advanced hacking group.

Not fully fake

“These files are not fully fake for sure,” Bencsáth Boldizsár, a researcher with Hungary-based CrySyS who is widely credited with discovering Flame, told Ars in an e-mail. “Most likely they are part of the NSA toolset, judging just by the volume and peeps into the samples. At first glance it is sound that these are important attack related files, and yes, the first guess would be Equation Group.”

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Group claims to hack NSA-tied hackers, posts exploits as proof