The Chinese APT group had access to an NSA Equation Group, NSA hacking tool and used it years before it was leaked online by Shadow Brokers group.

Check Point Research team discovered that China-linked APT31 group (aka Zirconium.) used a tool dubbed Jian, which is a clone of NSA Equation Group ‘s “EpMe” hacking tool years before it was leaked online by Shadow Brokers hackers.

In 2015, Kaspersky first spotted the NSA Equation Group, it revealed it was operating since at least 2001 and targeted almost any industry with  sophisticated zero-day malware.

The arsenal of the hacking crew included sophisticated tools that requested a significant effort in terms of development, Kaspersky speculated the Equation Group has also interacted with operators behind Stuxnet and Flame malware. 

Based on the evidence collected on the various cyber espionage campaigns over the years, Kaspersky experts hypothesize that the National Security Agency (NSA) is linked to the Equation Group.

Jian used the same Windows zero-day exploit that was stolen from the NSA Equation Group ‘s arsenal for years before it was addressed by the IT giant. 

In 2017, the Shadow Brokers hacking group released a collection of hacking tools allegedly stolen from the US NSA, most of them exploited zero-day flaws in popular software.

One of these zero-day flaws, tracked as CVE-2017-0005, was a privileged escalation issue that affected Windows XP to Windows 8 operating systems,

“In this blog we show that CVE-2017-0005, a Windows Local-Privilege-Escalation (LPE) vulnerability that was attributed to a Chinese APT, was replicated based on an Equation Group exploit for the same vulnerability that the APT was able to access.” reads the analysis published by CheckPoint. ““EpMe”, the Equation Group exploit for CVE-2017-0005, is one of 4 different LPE exploits included in the DanderSpritz attack framework. EpMe dates back to at least 2013 – four years before APT31 was caught exploiting this vulnerability in the wild.”

Source: NSA Equation Group tool was used by Chinese hackers years before it was leaked online