WikiLeaks published what it claims to be thousands of documents and files that exposes the tools used by the Central Intelligence Agency to hack smartphones, computers, and even internet-connected TVs.
The first part of the series of files, which has been named Vault 7, consisted of 8,761 documents and files acquired from an isolated and highly secure network located in the agency's Center for Cyber Intelligence in Virginia.
WikiLeaks Uploads Vault 7
Vault 7 is described by WikiLeaks as "the largest ever publication of confidential documents" from the CIA, and reveals that a wide variety of consumer electronics is vulnerable to hacking attacks by the agency.
According to the documents, internet-connected devices and even anti-virus software themselves can be compromised by CIA hacking attacks. Hackers from the agency are capable of recording sounds, images, and text messages of users, even when apps with encryption are utilized.
Among the most noteworthy claims made by Vault 7 is that the CIA, through a partnership with agencies both local and foreign, have bypassed the encryption measures used by popular and communication apps such as WhatsApp, Signal, and Telegram. Previously, these apps were thought to be secure ways to send messages to one another without having to worry about the communications being intercepted, whether by the government or otherwise.
The Hacking Tools Of The CIA
Many of the hacking tools have been presented at cybersecurity conferences, but what surprised experts is that the CIA had used so many of the theoretical vulnerabilities of modern technology into viable attack tools that target smartphones, computers on both Windows and Mac operating systems, internet routers, and smart TVs.
For example, a tool named the Weeping Angel was developed by the CIA to attack Smart TVs manufactured by Samsung. After the hack is implemented, the tool can place the target TV into a "fake-off" mode that would make the user believe that the TV is turned off. However, the TV remains in operation and functions as a bug, making it capable of recording the conversations within the room with the audio files then sent to a covert server of the CIA.
The CIA also apparently studied the possibility of breaching the control systems of vehicles, which WikiLeaks claims can be used to carry out assassinations that are almost undetectable. There is also said to be a specialized unit in the agency named the Mobile Development Branch that created malware to be able to steal data from iPhones due to their popularity among "social, political diplomatic and business elites," though popular Android-powered devices were also targeted.
Spying Concerns From The Public
The release of Vault 7 by WikiLeaks renewed the public's concerns on the security of the electronic devices that they use.
An intelligence source confirmed with The Wall Street Journal that some of the information presented in Vault 7 is authentic. The source added that the disclosure of the CIA's hacking tools will highly jeopardize the ongoing operations of the agency in gathering intelligence, with the revelations to be far more damaging compared to the leaks that former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden released in 2013 on the United States government's surveillance programs.
The general public, however, should not yet hit the panic button. There is no proof that the hacking tools have actually been used with the permission of the United States government and no evidence that the tools are capable of doing what they are claimed to do. In addition, the cost of these tools is too great for the government to use them on ordinary citizens.
WikiLeaks, however, claims that there are more data dumps coming to Vault 7, which should provide a better idea on the reality of the CIA's hacking capabilities.