WikiLeaks has begun publishing thousands of documents it claims to have taken from the CIA’s Center for Cyber Intelligence.
In what it called the “largest ever publication” of stolen CIA documents, WikiLeaks’ released documents that appear to describe hacking tools used by the agency.
The organization is calling the leaks “Vault 7,” and said Tuesday’s document dump is only the first part of a series. The more than 8,700 documents and files published Tuesday are being called “Year Zero.”
WikiLeaks claims the leaks contain several hundred million lines of code showing the CIA has a dedicated team to develop hacks. Here is our rundown of some of the main revelations.
Wiretapping smart TVs
“Weeping Angel” is a tool that was developed in partnership with the United Kingdom’s M15 agency. According to the leaks, it essentially turns Samsung smart TVs into wiretaps. Using the technique, hackers can make it appear as though a TV is off when it is actually on, and use it to record conversations.
Dedicated smartphone hacking units
The agency has special units focused on penetrating iPhone and Android devices. According to WikiLeaks, the CIA has a Mobile Devices Branch that focuses on remotely hacking smartphones to access data such as geolocation, audio and text. It can also allegedly use your phone’s camera. Using this malware, WikiLeaks claims the CIA could access a device that “runs or has run presidential Twitter accounts.”
Hacking encrypted message apps
Using the technology to hack smartphones, WikiLeaks claims the CIA is able to bypass encryption on messaging apps such as WhatsApp, Signal, Telegram and Weibo. Once a phone is hacked, the agency can allegedly intercept and the audio and messages “before the encryption is applied.”
Hoarding vulnerabilities from tech companies
In wake of Edward Snowden’s NSA leaks, the U.S. government committed to share device flaws it uncovers with U.S. technology companies. The latest leaks suggest the CIA is violating the agreement, known as the Vulnerabilities Equities Process, by hoarding these vulnerabilities.
While this leak hasn’t yet been authenticated, it could prove to be one of the biggest leaks in recent years. That would put it on scale of Edward Snowden’s leak of documents stolen from National Security Agency in 2013. WikiLeaks notes that the number of pages in “Year Zero” already surpasses the pages published “over the first three years of the Edward Snowden NSA leaks.”
Snowden’s leak revealed the NSA was spying on Americans’ phone records and disclosed PRISM, a program the NSA used to directly access servers of U.S. technology companies.
If authentic, Tuesday’s leaks show that the CIA has been using much of the same techniques that the NSA used. It doesn’t, however, detail how the agency has been using these or whom they’ve been used on. But, WikiLeaks said in a press release that this is only the first part of a series, so it’s possible this information will be revealed going forward. - Samaa