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NSA will release a free tool for reverse engineering malware

It's helping to improve security rather than undermine it.
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Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images

The NSA has frequently been accused of holding on to info that could potentially improve security, but this time it's being a little less secretive. The agency is planning to release a free reverse engineering tool, GHIDRA, in tandem with the RSA Conference on March 5th. The software dissects binaries for Android, iOS, macOS and Windows, turning them into assembly code that can help analyze malware or pinpoint questionable activity in otherwise innocent-looking software.

ZDNet noted that this kind of software isn't strictly new, and GHIDRA in particular isn't secret (it mainly entered the spotlight with the Vault 7 leak). However, existing reverse engineering options like IDA are expensive and generally inaccessible -- this would let any reasonably knowledgeable person tear open a program and gain a better understanding of what makes it tick.

As with the NSA's other open source projects, this isn't an altruistic gesture. In addition to improving overall security, it could improve the quality of GHIDRA by letting the community address bugs and introduce their own features. Whatever the NSA loses in control it might gain through better overall security.

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