A collection of powerful computer hacking tools developed by the U.S. National Security Agency has mysteriously appeared online, a development that could compromise operations at the spy agency and put government and corporate computers at risk.
A file containing the tools first appeared online a few days ago. They are designed to take over firewalls in order to control computer networks and modify information.
The NSA has not commented.
The tools were posted online by a group called Shadow Brokers, which is offering to auction them.
Some experts who looked at the tools said they were unlikely to cause significant damage. "The data appears to be relatively old," said researcher Claudio Guarnieri. "Some of the programs have already been known for years" and are unlikely "to cause any significant operational damage."
Matt Suiche of Comae Technologies in the United Arab Emirates said it appears the tools "could be used" if security flaws have not been fixed.
Other experts said the posting of the tools online could be a hoax, noting that Shadow Brokers is asking participants to send non-refundable funds prior to the auction.
The group did not say when the auction would end but is encouraging bidders to "keep bidding until we announce [the] winner."