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News | March 6, 2023

Four Years Later: The Impacts of Ghidra's Public Release

FORT MEADE, Md. — Four years ago at the 2019 RSA Conference, the National Security Agency (NSA) released Ghidra, a software reverse engineering framework developed by researchers in Computer and Analytic Sciences Research, to the public.
Public reaction was overwhelming with hundreds of thousands of downloads and millions of website views in the days following the release. 
Recently, GEN Paul M. Nakasone, Commander, USCYBERCOM, Director, NSA/Chief, CSS, met with the Ghidra team to congratulate them and learn about the impact it has had since its open-source software (OSS) release.
"When I was standing on the floor at RSA, I was struck by the reception we were getting," he recalled. "There was so much excitement."
Today, Ghidra is a staple in college curriculums and is the subject of dozens of how-to books and videos. In 2020 Java Magazine listed it as one of the top 25 Java applications ever written. The Ghidra team has seen numerous examples of major technology and cybersecurity companies using Ghidra as part of their operations; others have created cybersecurity training using the Ghidra framework.
The technology has also been used to analyze consumer devices such as Wi-Fi routers, car electronics and voting machines. For example, New Hampshire used Ghidra in their forensic analysis of their 2020 State Representative contest.
Since its inception, Ghidra has been continuously updated and improved with 26 additional releases. There have been over one million public downloads in the past four years and users have the ability to create custom builds specific to their needs.
Director of Research Gil Herrera emphasized that Ghidra is a no-fail mission. "Releasing Ghidra to the public evened out the cybersecurity playing field," he said. "NSA is dedicated to developing and sharing technology that makes our Nation safer."
Ghidra has served as a catalyst for engagement in the open-source community, primarily on GitHub, from where NSA has even adopted contributions that were created by public users and offered to the Agency.
GEN Nakasone praised the team for their "foundational work" and the "tremendous utility" that Ghidra has provided to mission.
"NSA Research is a hidden strength of the Agency," he said. "Our researchers and the work they do are irreplaceable."
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