CIA warns that Americans should be deeply troubled by WikiLeaks breach

9 Mar 2017

CIA page on an iPhone. Image: GongTo/Shutterstock

CIA and FBI launch criminal probe into WikiLeaks reveal of cyber armoury.

The CIA and FBI have launched a criminal investigation into how 8,761 classified documents detailing CIA hacking tools made their way onto WikiLeaks.

“The American public should be deeply troubled by any WikiLeaks disclosure designed to damage the Intelligence Community’s ability to protect America against terrorists and other adversaries,” the CIA said in a terse statement.

‘It is CIA’s job to be innovative, cutting edge and the first line of defence in protecting this country from enemies abroad. America deserves nothing less’

“Such disclosures not only jeopardise US personnel and operations, but also equip our adversaries with tools and information to do us harm.

“We have no comment on the authenticity of purported intelligence documents released by WikiLeaks or on the status of any investigation into the source of the documents. However, there are several critical points we would like to make.

“CIA’s mission is to aggressively collect foreign intelligence overseas to protect America from terrorists, hostile nation states and other adversaries. It is CIA’s job to be innovative, cutting edge and the first line of defence in protecting this country from enemies abroad. America deserves nothing less.

“It is also important to note that CIA is legally prohibited from conducting electronic surveillance targeting individuals here at home, including our fellow Americans, and CIA does not do so. CIA’s activities are subject to rigorous oversight to ensure that they comply fully with US law and the constitution.”

It is understood that both the FBI and CIA are coordinating the publication of thousands of files on WikiLeaks.

The store, dubbed ‘Vault7’, consists of 8,761 individual documents created between 2014 and 2016, which found their way out of the CIA servers and into the hands of WikiLeaks.

The documents point to a vast armoury of cyber weapons such as malware that allow spies to snoop on any device they wish, from iOS devices to Android phones, Windows machines and more.

The documents claim, for example, that through a set of exploits code-named ‘Weeping Angel’, a Samsung smart TV can be used to act as a kind of bug that records conversations in a room and then sends them to a CIA server via the internet.

One of the documents even discussed hacking vehicle systems.

Tech giants Apple, Samsung and Microsoft have all moved fast to kick-start their own investigations into the alleged vulnerabilities pointed to in their systems and products.

Apple, for example, said that its latest iOS operating system, iOS 10.2.1, already fixes the vulnerabilities suggested in the WikiLeaks documents.

Both Samsung and Microsoft say they are urgently looking into the claims.

FBI/CIA criminal probe begins

Just how the documents found their way into the hands of WikiLeaks is the big question.

Some reports initially suggested that hackers gained access to a CIA server. Some say that a rogue CIA operator may have been behind the breach.

However, other reports are suggesting that contractors likely breached security and handed the documents over to WikiLeaks.

According to CNBC, various contracting companies are checking to see which of their employees had access to the material published by WikiLeaks.

“Anybody who leaks classified information will be held to the highest degree of law,” White House spokesman Sean Spicer said.

Whatever way you look at it, this is just the beginning of a new chapter in the war that broke out when Edward Snowden revealed the mass surveillance techniques employed by the NSA and its international cronies in the spy community in 2014.

And it isn’t just the American people who need to be deeply troubled – the whole world should be troubled.

CIA page on iPhone. Image: GongTo/Shutterstock

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years