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Tech by VICE

The Password to the Latest NSA Leak Is a 4chan Meme

REEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE.

by Sarah Jeong
Apr 18 2017, 10:00am

On Friday, the group known as the Shadow Brokers released a massive dump of NSA hacking tools, a leak so stupendous that one source called it "the worst thing since Snowden." Nearly all the exploits dumped had been patched by Microsoft, so there's no need to panic, but there's still a lot of fascinating information in that dump, which is estimated to have been worth $2 million on the grey market. (For example, the leak ties the NSA to the infamous Stuxnet virus). In the frenzy, one detail has gone relatively unnoticed.

The password to the dump is a goddamned 4chan meme.

The blogpost announcing the Shadow Brokers dump.

Namely, it's a meme tied to Pepe, a cartoon frog that originally started out as relatively benign, then morphed into something with, uh, somewhat less savory connotations, culminating with Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign calling it a "racist meme."

"REEEEEEEE" (give or take a few extra e's) is the sound a frog makes when it's angry. (Crueler internet posters also use the sound to derogatorily refer to autistic behavior). The expression accompanies a picture of a Pepe—any Pepe, rare or otherwise—in a full rage. Like this one.

The fact that the Shadow Brokers dump was valued at $2 million suggests that it was the result of a state sponsored attack. But a state sponsored hack with Pepe references all over it? It's not just that the password was "Reeeeeeeeeeeeeee," the "KEK" at the beginning of the announcement blogpost is also a reference to Pepe.

For what it's worth, the Russian Embassy tweeted a Pepe in January, so a little bit of 4chan here and there doesn't rule out attribution to state actors. But dang, this really is the worst cyberpunk dystopia.