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Report: Chinese Got NSA Hacking Tools in NSA Attacks Against Them

Chinese intelligence agents were able to acquire National Security Agency hacking tools through NSA attacks on their own computers, the firm Symantec believes, according to The New York Times. The Chinese were then reportedly able to use those tools in a 2016 attack on U.S. allies and companies in Europe and Asia. The report does not explain how the Chinese were able to glean code from a U.S. attack against them—but researchers have concluded the same tools the NSA used were used in the Chinese attacks. The Chinese attacks using NSA tools reportedly targeted Belgium, Luxembourg, Vietnam, the Philippines, and Hong Kong. More specifically, targets included research organizations, educational institutions, the computer network of at least one U.S. ally, and a major telecommunications network—which may have given the Chinese access to “hundreds of thousands or millions of private communications.” Some of the NSA hacking tools taken by the Chinese were also posted online by a still-unknown hacker group called the Shadow Brokers and were used by Russia and North Korea in attacks. However, Symantec researchers reportedly did not find a connection between China collecting the NSA tools and the Shadow Brokers’ release of the tools online.