The 5 scariest revelations in the leaked CIA files

On Tuesday, WikiLeaks published thousands of documents relating to the CIA’s hacking capabilities confirming our worst fears about government surveillance.

The files, which have been dubbed “Vault 7” by the pro-transparency organization, showcase the Central Intelligence Agency’s numerous tools used to wage cyber-warfare on unsuspecting targets around the world, and spy on literally billions of people worldwide who use popular modern technology.

WikiLeaks gained access to the files by an unidentified leaker, though the organization suspects that multiple U.S. government employees and contractors have unauthorized access to the hacking tools themselves, meaning private citizens around the world are at risk of cyberattacks from unknown people who now have what WikiLeaks calls “the entire hacking capacity of the CIA.”

Here are five of the scariest findings published so far:

1. The CIA can remotely hack all smartphones

Any and all smartphones made by Apple, Samsung, and Google can be remotely hacked with the CIA’s tools developed by the agency’s Mobile Development Branch, which can access geolocation and even activate your smartphone’s camera without your knowledge or consent.

“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 stated in a press release announcing the publication of the leak.

2. Encryption apps can be bypassed

Some smartphone applications designed to encrypt text communications for added privacy, are rendered useless by the CIA’s hacking tools once they obtain access to a smartphone, according to the leaked files. The CIA managed to break through security systems with some two dozen “weaponized” Android smartphones called “zero days,” which is hacker lexicon for a security vulnerability neglected by the manufacturer of a device.

“These techniques permit the CIA to bypass the encryption of WhatsApp, Signal, Telegram, Wiebo, Confide and Cloackman by hacking the “smart” phones that they run on and collecting audio and message traffic before encryption is applied,” WikiLeaks’ statement reads.

3. The CIA is listening to you through your smart TV

The leaked files show that a program named “Weeping Angel” was developed by the CIA’s Embedded Devices Branch, in coordination with the United Kingdom’s MI-5. The program turns any Samsung smart TV into a listening device, after utilizing a “fake-off” procedure in which a homeowner assumes the TV is off, but is in fact still 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,” WikiLeaks stated in its description of the program.

4. The CIA’s malware can infect Windows, Mac, and Linux users alike

No computer user is safe from the CIA’s hacking tools, according to the leaked files. The agency has now developed “automated multi-platform malware attack and control systems” that are capable of infecting computer operating systems from all manufacturers, even open-source Linux operating systems. The Embedded Devices Branch conceived and developed the malware, which it refers to as “Hive” in the classified training manuals that have since been released by WikiLeaks.

5. The world’s deadliest cyber-warfare arsenal is now in unknown hands

While WikiLeaks received nearly 9,000 CIA documents describing the CIA’s hacking capabilities, the actual tools developed are reportedly being circulated by former U.S. intelligence workers and private contractors, opening up much of the world to sophisticated cyberattacks.

“Recently, the CIA lost control of the majority of its hacking arsenal including malware, viruses, trojans, weaponized “zero day” exploits, malware remote control systems and associated documentation,” WikiLeaks stated. “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 U.S. government hackers and contractors in an unauthorized manner, one of whom has provided WikiLeaks with portions of the archive.”

In response to the leaks, Jonathan Liu, a spokesman for the CIA, told Politico that the agency is choosing to “not comment on the authenticity or content of purported intelligence documents.”

 

Jamie Green is a contributor for the Resistance Report covering the Trump administration, and lives in Ann Arbor, Michigan.