WASHINGTON: The Big Brother is watching everyone. In an explosive revelation, WikiLeaks on Tuesday released thousands of documents containing information about the hacking softwares of Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) used to obtain information from iphones, androids phone and Smart TVs.
WikiLeaks termed the release the largest-ever publication of confidential documents on the CIA and described how encrypted WhatsApp messages, sophisticated smartphones and Smart TVs are turned into secret spying tools for the agency which has capacity to turn these phones and TVs as secret microphones.
While CIA has refused to verify authenticity of the document, technology experts believe the leaked documents appear genuine. WikiLeaks said the documents are from the CIA Center for Cyber Intelligence and represent a new series of leaks code-named “Vault 7.” The documents, from the CIA’s Center for Cyber Intelligence, are dated from 2013 to 2016. The website says the Agency “lost control of the majority of its hacking arsenal,” more than several hundred million lines of code, providing “the entire hacking capacity of the CIA.”
WikiLeaks release said that the CIA had managed to bypass encryption on popular phone and messaging services such as Signal, WhatsApp and Telegram. “Government hackers can penetrate Android phones and collect audio and message traffic before encryption is applied,” the statement issued by the website says.
WikiLeaks said the source, in a statement, set out policy questions that “urgently need to be debated in public, including whether the CIA’s hacking capabilities exceed its mandated powers and the problem of public oversight of the agency.” The source, the group said, “wishes to initiate a public debate about the security, creation, use, proliferation and democratic control of cyberweapons.”
A CIA spokesman, Dean Boyd, told the US media: “We do not comment on the authenticity or content of purported intelligence documents.”WikiLeaks added that it had redacted names and other identifying information from the collection. It said it was not releasing the computer code for actual, useable cyberweapons “until a consensus emerges on the technical and political nature of the CIA’s programme and how such ‘weapons’ should be analysed, disarmed and published.”
The editor of WikiLeaks, Julian Assange, warned of proliferation of cyber weapons developed by CIA. “There is an extreme proliferation risk in the development of cyber ‘weapons’. Comparisons can be drawn between the uncontrolled proliferation of such ‘weapons’, which results from the inability to contain them combined with their high market value, and the global arms trade. But the significance of ‘Year Zero’ goes well beyond the choice between cyberwar and cyberpeace. The disclosure is also exceptional from a political, legal and forensic perspective.”
The malwares used by CIA have exotic names similar to some movies and novels. It says the attack against Samsung smart TVs was developed in cooperation with the United Kingdom’s MI5/BTSS. After infestation, Weeping Angel places the target TV in a ‘Fake-Off’ mode, so that the owner falsely believes the TV is off when it is on. In ‘Fake-Off’ mode, the TV operates as a bug, recording conversations in the room and sending them over the Internet to a covert CIA server.
As of October 2014, the CIA was also looking at 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.
The CIA’s Mobile Devices Branch (MDB) developed numerous attacks to remotely hack and control popular smart phones. 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.
“The CIA found itself building not just its now infamous drone fleet, but a very different type of covert, globe-spanning force — its own substantial fleet of hackers. The agency’s hacking division freed it from having to disclose its often controversial operations to the NSA (its primary bureaucratic rival) in order to draw on the NSA’s hacking capacities,” the statement said.
It says by the end of 2016, the CIA’s hacking division had over 5,000 registered users and had produced more than a thousand hacking systems, trojans, viruses, and other “weaponised” malware.Such is the scale of the CIA’s undertaking that by 2016, its hackers had utilised more code than that used to run Facebook.
It says CIA malware and hacking tools are built by its department called EDG which is responsible for the development, testing and operational support of all backdoors, exploits, malicious payloads, trojans, viruses and any other kind of malware used by the CIA in its covert operations world-wide.