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Reports: Russian hackers stole NSA spying tools

By Danielle Haynes
Reports: Russian hackers stole NSA spying tools
Intelligence officials said the information could allow Russia to figure out how to access U.S. networks File Photo by hxdyl/Shutterstock

Oct. 5 (UPI) -- Hackers linked to Moscow stole information on U.S. spying tools after a National Security Agency worker transferred the classified material to his home computer, unnamed intelligence officials said.

Multiple people with knowledge of the incident told The Wall Street Journal the hackers took information on how the United States accesses foreign computers and defends against cyberattacks. The information also included the computer code the NSA uses for spying.

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A former senior intelligence official told NBC News the NSA worker put the information on a computer that used Kaspersky anti-virus software. Kaspersky Lab is a Russian company with alleged ties to state-sponsored cyberespionage.

It is against NSA rules for employees to take classified information home.

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The Journal reported Thursday that the breach happened in 2015 but officials didn't discover it until spring 2016. Sources said the information could allow the Russian government to determine how to protect itself against the NSA. Likewise, it could allow Russia to figure out how to access networks in the United States.

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In September, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security directed all federal agencies to stop using products made by Kaspersky.

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The directive said Kaspersky's anti-virus products allow "broad access" to files and can be exploited by "malicious cyberactors" to compromise the systems.

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"The department is concerned about the ties between certain Kaspersky officials and Russian intelligence and other government agencies, and requirements under Russian law that allow Russian intelligence agencies to request or compel assistance from Kaspersky and to intercept communications transiting Russian networks," the directive said. "The risk that the Russian government, whether acting on its own or in collaboration with Kaspersky, could capitalize on access provided by Kaspersky products to compromise federal information and information systems directly implicates U.S. national security."

The news comes amid several federal investigations into whether the Russian government attempted to meddle in the 2016 U.S. presidential election. The U.S. intelligence community in January concluded Russian President Vladimir Putin had a direct hand in ordering a large-scale effort to interfere with the election in an attempt to get Trump elected. A report from the director of national intelligence said agents of the Kremlin employed third parties to impact the vote, including the Moscow-funded network RT and "trolls" on social media channels.

Intelligence officials implicated the Russian government in a series of cyberattacks last year on the Democratic National Committee's computers, and other Democratic officials.

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