The latest revelations about the U.S. governments’s powerful hacking tools potentially takes surveillance right into the homes and hip pockets of billions of users worldwide, showing how a remarkable variety of everyday devices can be turned to spy on their owners.
Televisions, smartphones and even anti-virus software are all vulnerable to CIA hacking, according to the WikiLeaks documents released Tuesday. The capabilities described include recording the sounds, images and the private text messages of users, even when they resort to encrypted apps to communicate.
While many of the attack technologies had been previously discussed at cyber security conferences, experts were startled to see evidence that the CIA had turned so many theoretical vulnerabilities into functioning attack tools against staples of modern life. These include widely used Internet routers, smartphones, and Mac and Windows computers.
In the case of a tool called “Weeping Angel” for attacking Samsung SmartTVs, WikiLeaks wrote, “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.”
The CIA reportedly also has studied whether it could infect vehicle control systems for cars and trucks, which WikiLeaks alleged could be used to conduct “nearly undetectable assassinations.”
And a specialized CIA unit called the Mobile Devices Branch produced malware to control and steal information from iPhones, which according to WikiLeaks were a particular focus because of the smartphone’s popularity “among social, political diplomatic and business elites.” The agency also targeted popular phones running Google’s Android, the world’s leading mobile operating system.
Wikileaks said it redacted lists of CIA surveillance targets, though it said they included targets and machines in Latin America, Europe and the United States. The anti-secrecy group also said that by developing such intrusive technology — rather than helping tech companies patch flaws in their products — the CIA was undermining efforts to protect the cyber security of Americans.
Credit: The Washington Post