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Julian Assange, WikiLeaks editor

CIA 'turned phones, TVs into tapping devices'

WASHINGTON, March 8, 2017

Anti-secrecy group WikiLeaks yesterday began a new series of leaks on the US Central Intelligence Agency's (CIA) hacking techniques and said the US spy agency turned Smart TVs and smartphones into surveillance equipment.

The discussion transcripts showed that CIA hackers could get into Apple iPhones, Google Android devices and other gadgets in order to capture text and voice messages before they were encrypted with sophisticated software, WikiLeaks said.

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 report said.

CIA's arsenal includes numerous local and remote "zero days" developed by CIA or obtained from GCHQ, NSA, FBI or purchased from cyber arms contractors such as Baitshop. The disproportionate focus on iOS may be explained by the popularity of the iPhone among social, political, diplomatic and business elites, it said.

A similar unit targets Google's Android which is used to run the majority of the world's smart phones.

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, it said.

Code-named "Vault 7" by WikiLeaks, it is the largest ever publication of confidential documents on the agency.

The first full part of the series, "Year Zero", comprises 8,761 documents and files from an isolated, high-security network situated inside the CIA's Center for Cyber Intelligence in Langley, Virgina. It follows an introductory disclosure last month of CIA targeting French political parties and candidates in the lead up to the 2012 presidential election, WikiLeaks said.

It said recently, the CIA lost control of the majority of its hacking arsenal including malware, viruses, trojans, weaponised "zero day" exploits, malware remote control systems and associated documentation. 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 US government hackers and contractors in an unauthorised manner, one of whom has provided WikiLeaks with portions of the archive, it said.

"Year Zero" introduces the scope and direction of the CIA's global covert hacking programme, its malware arsenal and dozens of "zero day" weaponised exploits against a wide range of US and European company products, include Apple's iPhone, Google's Android and Microsoft's Windows and even Samsung TVs, which are turned into covert microphones.

Since 2001 the CIA has gained political and budgetary preeminence over the US National Security Agency (NSA). 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, WikiLeaks said.

By the end of 2016, the CIA's hacking division, which formally falls under the agency's Center for Cyber Intelligence (CCI), had over 5000 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. The CIA had created, in effect, its "own NSA" with even less accountability and without publicly answering the question as to whether such a massive budgetary spend on duplicating the capacities of a rival agency could be justified, it said.

In a statement to WikiLeaks the source details policy questions that they say 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 wishes to initiate a public debate about the security, creation, use, proliferation and democratic control of cyberweapons, it said.

Once a single cyber 'weapon' is 'loose' it can spread around the world in seconds, to be used by rival states, cyber mafia and teenage hackers alike, it said.

Julian Assange, WikiLeaks editor stated: "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."

Wikileaks has carefully reviewed the "Year Zero" disclosure and published substantive CIA documentation while avoiding the distribution of 'armed' 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, it said.
 




Tags: CIA | Wikileaks |

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