WikiLeaks data trove reveals CIA can hack any device on Earth

8 Mar 2017

Yes, your TV could be spying on you. Image: gmstockstudio/Shutterstock

In the biggest shock since Snowden, the latest Wikileaks revelations are sure to cause tensions between Silicon Valley and Washington.

WikiLeaks has published 8,761 alleged classified documents from 2013, allegedly belonging to the CIA, describing methods for malware, zero-day exploits and the ability to hack iOS, Android, Windows, macOS and Linux devices.

The massive disclosure of CIA cyber spying tools indicates that hackers could gain entry to Apple iPhones as well as Google Android devices and Samsung TVs to capture private data.

‘The disproportionate focus on iOS may be explained by the popularity of the iPhone among social, political, diplomatic and business elites’

In 2013, Edward Snowden took on the life of a fugitive when he revealed the extent of the mass surveillance being conducted by the NSA and cronies such as GCHQ in the UK.

Last year, Snowden suggested that the FBI could crack any iPhone without Apple and the latest WikiLeaks revelations give this some credence.

The alleged documents indicate that the CIA worked in partnership with other agencies, including overseas organisations, to bypass the encryption on apps such as WhatsApp, Telegram and Signal.

The WikiLeaks data haul, which has shaken the tech world, indicates that the CIA had acquired a powerful array of cyber weapons.

Effectively, it is the biggest reveal since Snowden disclosed how the NSA had been hacking America’s leading technology companies.

Apple, Google and Microsoft are understood to be hard at work assessing just how badly their core products have been compromised.

Dubbed ‘Vault7’, the publication shows files purportedly taken from a secure network within the CIA’s HQ at Langley, Virginia.

They contain exploits for both iOS and Android devices, with notable success with the latter, using 24 weaponised exploits compared with 14 for iOS.

These come from sources including the NSA and GCHQ as well as private exploit traders (aka lone wolf hackers).

This is the largest breach of classified materials from US intelligence agencies.

Is your TV spying on you?

Like something from the George Orwell novel Nineteen Eighty-Four, it appears that your TV is indeed spying on you on behalf of Big Brother.

According to the WikiLeaks files, one set of exploits code-named ‘Weeping Angel’ indicates how a Samsung smart TV can be exploited to act as a kind of bug that records conversations in a room and then sends them to a CIA server via the internet.

In its post, WikiLeaks said: “Recently, the CIA lost control of the majority of its hacking arsenal including malware, viruses, trojans, weaponised ‘zero day’ exploits, malware remote control systems and associated documentation.

“This extraordinary collection, which amounts to more than several hundred million lines of code, gives its possessor the entire hacking capacity of the CIA.

“The archive appears to have been circulated among former US government hackers and contractors in an unauthorised manner, one of whom has provided WikiLeaks with portions of the archive.”

The attack against Samsung smart TVs is claimed by WikiLeaks to have been developed in cooperation with the UK’s MI5/BTSS. Weeping Angel places the target TV in a ‘fake-off’ mode so that the owner falsely believes the TV is off when it’s not.

As of October 2014, the CIA was also looking at ways of infecting the vehicle control systems used by modern cars and trucks.

“The purpose of such control is not specified, but it would permit the CIA to engage in nearly undetectable assassinations,” WikiLeaks suggested.

WikiLeaks also said that the CIA’s mobile devices branch developed numerous attacks to remotely hack and control popular iPhone and Android smartphones.

“Infected phones can be instructed to send the CIA the user’s geolocation, audio and text communications as well as covertly activate the phone’s camera and microphone,” WikiLeaks warned.

The CIA’s arsenal of cyber weapons includes numerous local and remote zero days developed by the CIA, obtained from GCHQ, NSA or FBI, or purchased from cyber arms contractors such as Baitshop.

“The disproportionate focus on iOS may be explained by the popularity of the iPhone among social, political, diplomatic and business elites.”

If anything, the big reveal of CIA files has put Silicon Valley into scramble mode and will increase the wall of distrust that is emerging between it and Washington.

Remember: when you go to bed tonight, make sure your TV is unplugged.

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