Seized Silk Road bitcoin used to fund Shadow Brokers exploit auction

Bitcoin appears to be moving from a seized wallet to the Shadow Brokers auction, raising suspicions that the US government is potentially bidding to prevent stolen NSA exploits and tools from ending up in the wrong hands — again.

Last week, a group calling themselves the “Shadow Brokers” offered up what they claimed to be a treasure trove of exploits, software and tools used by the US National Security Agency (NSA)’s Equation Group to the highest bidder.

The Equation Group, considered one of the most sophisticated and dangerous teams in existence, uses a variety of sophisticated tools and zero-day vulnerabilities to spy on targets and compromise PCs without being detected.

The Shadow Brokers sent out an open invitation to interested bidders, providing a small “sample” of the resources on offer.

The auction was viewed with doubt as no-one had heard of the cyberattack group and without access to the full cache, there was little proof that the claims were nothing more than a hoax.

However, newly released documents leaked by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden appear to show the leak is legitimate.

In addition, Cisco and Fortinet have both confirmed their products are affected by the malware and the firms’ security teams are already on task to patch vulnerable software.

At the same time as these revelations, security expert Krypt3ia revealed the results of an interesting investigation into how the auction is going.

Late last week, Krypt3ia said in a blog post that while the Shadow Brokers’ auction has generated marginal interest and some payments, a portion of the proceeds appears to be becoming from the Silk Road Bitcoin wallet, which was seized by the FBI after the underground marketplace was closed down in 2013.


“So, is this to say that these coins are still in the coffers of the feds and they are being sent to ShadowBrokers to chum the water here?,” krypt3ia notes. “Maybe get a conversation going? Maybe to get the bitcoins flying so others can trace some taint?

Of course once you start to look at that address and the coins in and out there you get some other interesting hits. Suddenly you are seeing US Marshall service as well being in that loop.”

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It could be that the US government is testing the waters and participating in order to try and trace anyone interested in purchasing the cache — or to buy it themselves as part of damage limitation. Whatever the reason, these kinds of payments have not revealed why a slice of the confiscated Silk Road Bitcoin are being used — or by whom.

While the Shadow Brokers’ dreams of raising one million Bitcoins — the equivalent of $580,630,000 — is unlikely, confirmation of the sample’s validity and the US government’s interest may raise the value of future bids.

At the time of writing, the Shadow Brokers’ auction has netted a total of 1.761 BTC, which equates to approximately $1022.

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