When a mysterious group called The Shadow Brokers dumped a bunch of hacking tools and exploits allegedly belonging to an NSA-linked group, it also said they had more, juicier stuff. But to see it, the group warned, someone has to win a strange auction for one million bitcoin, or around $500 million.
That's a lot of bitcoin, which immediately raised a lot of eyebrows. The auction, many argued, was simply a ruse, or a scam. Either way, it's not going great.
As of Wednesday morning, the auction is 999,998.371 bitcoin short. The bitcoin wallet set up by The Shadow Brokers has only received 15 offers for a total of around $930, and the highest bidder—by far—is from someone who paid 1.5 bitcoin, or around $850.
"Have a feeling nothing will come out of it, but worth a shot," said the bidder, who declined to be identified but told Motherboard that they are interested in using the hacking tools and unknown, or "zero-day," exploits that The Shadow Brokers might have in their possession.
"Have a feeling nothing will come out of it, but worth a shot."
"The code is outdated, and there are no guarantees I (or anyone) will get anything from this," the bidder said in an online chat. "I do however think that is the most anyone will bid. So, if I get a few 0days, even if old, for $850—that would still be nice."
The bidder declined to elaborate on what they intend to use the exploits for. They said that they're not interested in reselling them, but using them for their criminal activity, such as hacking routers to intercept people's data—logins, for example.
Matt Suiche, the CEO of UAE-based cybersecurity company Comae, who's been following the leak since the beginning, is skeptical.
"The auction is a PR stunt," Suiche told me. "Initially I was thinking of bidding too but when I realized they mentioned they wanted $500M USD, it made me doubt about how serious they were on the auction."
For Suiche, it's more likely the auction was just a way to get attention. But if The Shadow Brokers don't get enough bids, and the auction "is still shitty like now," he argued, they might release what they have anyway eventually to prove they have more, and increase their chances of making a profit.
The auction seems to be set in a way that even if it doesn't raise one million bitcoin, the highest bidder—but no one else—gets to see the rest of the files. So the current highest bidder does have a chance if The Shadow Brokers keep their word.
In any case, the highest bidder isn't holding their breath, but is hopeful.
"If you ask me - in a month it will all be forgotten," the bidder said. "People have short memory, this team will either disappear with the little amount of [bitcoin] and give me nothing, or release another teaser just to try to get more [bitcoin] (which won't work)...my bet in [bitcoin] is on the part where they live up to their word :)"
This story has been updated to clarify that highest bidder of the auction, even if it doesn't get to one million bitcoin, would get to see the files, according to the terms of the auction.