WikiLeaks reveals CIA hacking tools
WikiLeaks has published thousands of documents described as secret files about CIA hacking tools the government employs to break into users’ computers, mobile phones and even smart TVs from companies like Apple, Google, Microsoft and Samsung.
The documents describe clandestine methods for bypassing or defeating encryption, antivirus tools and other protective security features intended to keep the private information of citizens and corporations safe from prying eyes. US government employees, including President Donald Trump, use many of the same products and internet services purportedly compromised by the tools.
The documents describe CIA efforts – cooperating with friendly foreign governments and the US National Security Agency – to subvert the world’s most popular technology platforms, including Apple’s iPhones and iPads, Google’s Android phones and the Microsoft Windows operating system for desktop computers and laptops.
The documents also include discussions about compromising some internet-connected televisions to turn them into listening posts. One document discusses hacking vehicle systems, indicating the CIA’s interest in hacking modern cars with sophisticated on-board computers.
WikiLeaks has a long track record of releasing top secret government documents, and experts who sifted through the material said it appeared legitimate.
The chairman of the House intelligence committee, Devin Nunes, said he was very concerned about the release and had asked the intelligence community for more information about it.
Former CIA Director Mike Hayden told MSNBC he had undertaken only a cursory review of the documents, but that if they were what they were purported to be, it would amount to a “very extensive file of the tactics, techniques, procedures, targets and other political rules” under which the CIA hacks targets. “If it is that, it would be very, very damaging,” he said.
Jonathan Liu, a spokesman for the CIA, said: “We do not comment on the authenticity or content of purported intelligence documents.” White House spokesman Sean Spicer also declined comment.
WikiLeaks has published what it claims is the largest ever batch of confidential documents on the CIA, revealing the breadth of the agency’s ability to hack smartphones and popular social media messaging apps such as WhatsApp.
A total of 8,761 documents have been published as part of ‘Year Zero’, the first part in a series of leaks on the agency that the whistleblower organization has dubbed ‘Vault 7.’
In a statement WikiLeaks said ‘Year Zero’ revealed details of the CIA’s “global covert hacking program,” including “weaponized exploits” used against company products including “Apple’s iPhone, Google’s Android and Microsoft’s Windows and even Samsung TVs, which are turned into covert microphones.”
According to the preliminary release, the CIA has the capability to hack, record and even control everyday technology used by billions of people around the world.
These include smartphones, tablets, smart TVs and even vehicles with remote control navigation systems.
On these devices themselves, the CIA can allegedly hack into some of the world’s most heavily encrypted social media and communications platforms such as WhatsApp, Weibo, Confide, Signal and Telegram before any encryption can even be applied.
For example, WhatsApp’s end-to-end encryption means that only the direct participants in a conversation can read messages; not even WhatsApp is capable of reading them.
The CIA, however, was able to hack into individual private WhatsApp messages before encryption could even be applied.
“Your messages are secured with a lock, and only the recipient and you have the special key needed to unlock and read your message,” the company writes on their website.
The majority of the world’s smartphones have been “weaponized,” according to WikiLeaks, which revealed in its latest leak that the CIA went to extreme measures to utilize the Android OS for spying.
Google’s Android operating system, used in 85 percent of the world’s smart phones, including Samsung and Sony, was found to have 24 ‘zero days’ – the code name used by the CIA to identify and exploit vulnerabilities for the purpose of secretly collecting data on individuals.
The techniques allow the CIA to access data from social messaging platforms, including WhatsApp, Weibo and Clockman before encryption, according to WikiLeaks.
Both audio and message data were vulnerable to the exploit through the CIA’s exploitation of gaps in the OS.
Already embroiled in a row with President Donald Trump amid his claims that spies are leaking secrets against him, now the CIA is facing its own damaging leaks.
This time it’s the American intelligence community’s familiar foe – Wikileaks – with another cache of what look like highly sensitive secret documents, this time about the CIA’s technical capabilities.
The National Security Agency faced its problems when Edward Snowden passed on documents to journalists – but this time it’s the NSA’s sister agency.
While the NSA is the agency charged with collecting what is called signals intelligence and the CIA’s job is to recruit human spies, the reality is that the technical and the human side of espionage have been drawing closer for years.
The CIA created a Directorate of Digital Innovation whose director told me the priority was making sure the agency stayed on top of technology.
While the NSA may sift global internet traffic looking for intelligence, the CIA prioritises close access against specific targets who it is interested in.
And getting into someone’s electronic devices can be vital if you are trying to target them – either to recruit them as an agent or for a drone strike against a suspected terrorist.
These latest leaks will be a huge problem for the CIA as the Snowden leaks were for the NSA (although there will be less surprise about these capabilities now since we learned so much from the Snowden files).
There is the embarrassment factor – that an agency whose job is to steal other people’s secrets has not been able to keep their own.
This will be added to by the revelations that the US consulate in Frankfurt was used as a base for the technical operations which may cause problems in Germany where the Edward Snowden revelations caused intense domestic debate.
Then there will be the fear of a loss of intelligence coverage by the CIA against their targets who may change their behaviour because they now know the spies can do.
And then there will be the questions over whether the CIA’s technical capabilities were too expansive and too secret.
Because many of the initial documents point to capabilities targeting consumer devices, the hardest questions may revolve around what is known as the “equities” problem – when you find a vulnerability in a piece of technology, how do you balance the benefit of leaving that vulnerability in place so the intelligence agency can exploit it to collect intelligence with the benefit to the public of informing the manufacturer so they can close it and improve everyone’s security?
If an intelligence agency has found a vulnerability then other hackers might do as well. The NSA faced questions about whether it had found the right balance and now it may be the CIA’s turn.
There will be anger in the CIA and some of that will be directed at Wikileaks.
Wikileaks has said the source of this latest cache of documents came from a former US government hacker or contractor.
this exploded onto the internet yesterday..no reason to think its not 100% genuine..i have linked a few articles but there will be constant revelations so lets use this as the main thread..
“The majority of the world’s smartphones have been “weaponized,” according to WikiLeaks, which revealed in its latest leak that the CIA went to extreme measures to utilize the Android OS for spying.”