WikiLeaks has published what it says is another batch of secret hacking manuals belonging to the US Central Intelligence Agency as part of its Vault7 series of leaks. The site is billing Vault7 as the largest publication of intelligence documents ever.
Friday's installment includes 27 documents related to "Grasshopper," the codename for a set of software tools used to build customized malware for Windows-based computers. The Grasshopper framework provides building blocks that can be combined in unique ways to suit the requirements of a given surveillance or intelligence operation. The documents are likely to be of interest to potential CIA targets looking for signatures and other signs indicating their Windows systems were hacked. The leak will also prove useful to competing malware developers who want to learn new techniques and best practices.
"Grasshopper is a software tool used to build custom installers for target computers running Microsoft Windows operating system," one user guide explained. "An operator uses the Grasshopper builder to construct a custom installation executable."
The elusive Shadow Brokers didn't have much luck selling the NSA's hacking tools, so they're giving more of the software away -- to everyone. In a Medium post, the mysterious team supplied the password for an encrypted file containing many of the Equation Group surveillance tools swiped back in 2016. Supposedly, the group posted the content in "protest" at President Trump turning his back on the people who voted for him. The leaked data appears to check out, according to researchers, but some of it is a couple of decades old and focused on platforms like Linux.
If anything, the leak might backfire. Edward Snowden notes that while the leak is "nowhere near" representing the NSA's complete tool set, there's enough that the NSA should "instantly identify" where and how the kit leaked. This doesn't mean the Shadow Brokers themselves are about to face capture. However, this may give the agency info it needs to both connect the dots (how much of a role did NSA contractor Harold Thomas Martin III play in the online leak, for instance?) and prevent a repeat incident.
Does this open a can of worms? It's hard to say -- researchers are still combing over the data. If there are any hacks that can be made useful, though, this could be problematic for server operators worried about cybercrime. If nothing else, it shows that the Shadow Brokers didn't reveal their full hand.