WikiLeaks releases 'chilling' documents on CIA snooping

Photo (c) Al - Fotolia

Spy agency allegedly attacks consumer devices

Your smart TV may be listening in on your conversations and vulnerabilities in your computer security software are going unrepaired because U.S. intelligence agencies find them useful.

Those are just a couple of the sensational revelations from a massive document dump by WikiLeaks, the gadfly website that released Democratic National Committee emails during last year's presidential campaign.

The document dump, allegedly from the CIA's cyber group, is code-named Vault 7 and made up of 8,761 documents and files from a little known, high-security network deep inside the CIA's Center for Cyber Intelligence in Langley, Va.

It comes on the heels of last month's introductory disclosure that purported to reveal CIA targeting of French political parties and candidates in the lead up to the 2012 presidential election.

How consumers are affected

What U.S. consumers might find most interesting is the allegation that the spy agency has built a massive covert hacking program and malware arsenal that was deployed against many common communications devices, including Apple's iPhone, Google's Android, Microsoft's Windows, and even Samsung smart TVs.

"By the end of 2016, the CIA's hacking division, which formally falls under the agency's Center for Cyber Intelligence (CCI), had over 5,000 registered users and had produced more than a thousand hacking systems, trojans, viruses, and other 'weaponized' malware," WikiLeaks said in a statement. "Such is the scale of the CIA's undertaking that by 2016, its hackers had utilized more code than that used to run Facebook."

CIA whistleblower

The source for all of this is an unnamed whistleblower, someone being referred to as "the next Edward Snowden," the NSA whistleblower currently in exile in Russia. The source told WikiLeaks that the CIA recently "lost control" of most of its hacking arsenal. The collection of weaponized apps, described as "extraordinary," reportedly gives whomever possesses it "the entire hacking capacity of the CIA."

Amazingly, the source told WikiLeaks the entire collection appears to have been circulated among a large number of former government hackers and contractors -- including the source -- in an unauthorized manner.

Among the WikiLeaks documents are some that suggest the attack on Samsung smart TVs was coordinated with Britain's MI5. The malware is said to place the target TV in "fake-off" mode, so that it is really on and can be used as a bug.

WikiLeaks also claims that in recent years the CIA has been exploring how it can infect the vehicle control systems used by modern cars and trucks.

Undetectable assassinations

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

Other documents allege the CIA's Mobile Devices Branch (MDB) is responsible for many attacks to remotely hack and control popular smartphones. Once compromised, the infected phones can be used to send the CIA the user's geolocation, audio, and text communications, as well as covertly activate the phone's camera and microphone.

In its work, CIA hackers have allegedly uncovered numerous vulnerabilities and exploits in widely used consumer software. WikiLeaks charges that, rather than reporting these security flaws the the manufacturers, the government has "hoarded" them so they will not be fixed and can continue to be used to spy on targets.

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