Chinese pro-govt paper claims NSA Linux tool NOPEN found

Image by Michael Schwarzenberger from Pixabay

Details about a spying tool, claimed to be developed by the American NSA and able to reside in a Linux machine in order to steal information, has been reported by Global Times, a Chinese newspaper which has a pro-government tilt.

The publication said the tool, which was said to have been used to control network gear around the world to steal user data, had been detailed in a report by the National Computer Virus Emergency Response Centre.

Known as NOPEN, the report said it could be also used for redirecting network traffic. The centre’s technical analysts said NOPEN was a complex tool that could be modified to work on different architectures and operating systems.

The claims come in the wake of a report by Chinese security firm Pangu Labs in February which provided details about NSA malware, known as Bvp47, that had been found in 2013. This was also aimed at Linux.

The Global Times report said once NOPEN was implanted on a system it could serve as a bridge for entering other machines on the same network.

The centre’s report said that NSA documents leaked by the Shadow Brokers listed NOPEN as a weapon used by the organisation’s Tailored Access Operations group, a division that now no longer exists.

Exploits dumped by the Brokers have been used in malware campaigns, with the most well-known being the WannaCry ransomware that was unleashed in May 2017.

The NSA has been contacted for comment.

Chinese security firms or government authorities rarely disclose details about malware from other countries that are claimed to attack Chinese systems, hence two reports in two months is highly unusual.

Prior to these two reports, only twice has a Chinese research team publicly released details about malware emanating from American spy agencies; once was when 360 Core Security (Qihoo Security) named former CIA employee Joshua Adam Schulte as being the person who leaked material to WikiLeaks which the latter published under the name Vault 7.

The other time this happened was in September 2019, when researcher Qi An Xin accused the American intelligence agency of breaching aviation industry targets between 2012 and 2017.

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