Check Point has evidence that (probably government affiliated) Chinese hackers stole and cloned an NSA Windows hacking tool years before (probably government affiliated) Russian hackers stole and then published the same tool. Here’s the timeline:
The timeline basically seems to be, according to Check Point:
- 2013: NSA’s Equation Group developed a set of exploits including one called EpMe that elevates one’s privileges on a vulnerable Windows system to system-administrator level, granting full control. This allows someone with a foothold on a machine to commandeer the whole box.
- 2014-2015: China’s hacking team code-named APT31, aka Zirconium, developed Jian by, one way or another, cloning EpMe.
- Early 2017: The Equation Group’s tools were teased and then leaked online by a team calling itself the Shadow Brokers. Around that time, Microsoft cancelled its February Patch Tuesday, identified the vulnerability exploited by EpMe (CVE-2017-0005), and fixed it in a bumper March update. Interestingly enough, Lockheed Martin was credited as alerting Microsoft to the flaw, suggesting it was perhaps used against an American target.
- Mid 2017: Microsoft quietly fixed the vulnerability exploited by the leaked EpMo exploit.