Report: NSA joins probe of NASDAQ hack

The National Security Agency (NSA) has reportedly joined an ongoing probe of a recent hacking operation that breached the digital perimeter surrounding NASDAQ in October 2010.

The NSA’s participation in the investigation is expected to help NASDAQ and the FBI determine the identity of the attackers and what data was compromised – in an incident considerably more severe than was first disclosed. 

“By bringing in the NSA, that means they think they’re either dealing with a state-sponsored attack or it’s an extraordinarily capable criminal organization,” Joel Brenner of the law firm Cooley LLP told Bloomberg.

Brenner – a former head of U.S. counterintelligence in the Bush and Obama administrations – also noted the NSA “played a part” in probing a 2009 attack against Google.

“It’s part of an increasing awareness that the distinction between economic and national security is rapidly breaking down.”

Ira Winkler, former NSA analyst and chief security strategist at Technodyne, explained that the NSA’s most critical contribution to the probe will likely be its ability to unscramble encrypted messages (between malware and server) used to extract data. 

“In theory, the NSA should have the ability to reconstruct the data that is being obfuscated,” said Winkler.