A group of hackers calling themselves “The Shadow Brokers” released a trove of hacking tools last Friday, claiming they were stolen from the National Security Agency (NSA) and designed to target Microsoft products.

That initial report had caused considerable alarm among tech security experts, who cited the 300 megabytes of software exploits stolen from the NSA as the most damaging release from the group of hackers to date.

But in what has some speculating of possible government assistance, Microsoft had preempted the release by patching all of the major exploits a month ago in March. Following the announcement made by the Shadow Brokers, Microsoft quickly released their own statement on Friday, listing the exploits and explaining that all had been addressed by their Security Response Center in previous updates.

In addition to the exploits against Microsoft products, the group released evidence of U.S. hacks against banks that use networked systems with technology from the Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication (SWIFT). SWIFT has previously been the focus of American intelligence and law enforcement agencies seeking to gain access to information related to terrorist financing operations. The American program, called the “Terrorist Finance Tracking Program” was publicized in 2006 by a number of American news outlets like The New York Times, leading to a new “SWIFT-agreement” after privacy concerns were raised.

The Shadow Brokers first made headlines last year when they released other alleged NSA hacking tools. The source of those leaks had originally been thought to be another NSA contractor who had gone rogue. Harold T. Martin III, a Booz Allen Hamilton contractor, was arrested by the FBI in August. However, the Shadow Brokers continued to release hacked information after his arrest.

Other theories tie the group to Russian intelligence. In a statement released on April 8th, writing in broken English, the group said “Respectfully, what the fuck are you doing? TheShadowBrokers voted for you,” and “The ShadowBrokers is losing faith in you,” referring to President Donald Trump. Russia has been accused by U.S. intelligence agencies of purposefully interfering with American political processes to sow confusion and uncertainty among Americans with regard to their government and democracy.

Image courtesy of NBC News