US intelligence officials used Twitter to send “nearly a dozen” coded messages to a Russian spy who claimed to have in his possession the National Security Agency (NSA) data stolen by the hacking group called Shadow Brokers, the media reported.

The Russian was known to American and European officials for his ties to Russian intelligence and cybercriminals — two groups suspected in the theft of the NSA and the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) hacking tools in the past, The New York Times reported this week.

The tweets were sent throughout 2017 and reportedly, the NSA officials would tell the Russian to expect public tweets in advance.

The tweets would appear plain to a lay person but they were coded messages either to signal an intent to make contact or to prove that it was involved and was open to further chats with the contact, Engadget reported on 9 February.

Some tweets were the usual self-promotion and others were historical facts, such as celebrating the 177th anniversary of the telegraph patent.

The NSA reportedly paid about $100,000 to the Russian in hopes of recovering Shadow Brokers data, but cut off the deal when he instead presented information claiming to link US President Donald Trump and associates to Russia.