This week, the transparency organization, WikiLeaks, released an extraordinary number of documents that apparently came from the inner cyber sanctum of the Central Intelligence Agency.
Giving it the name Vault7, the trove of documents exposed to the world by WikiLeaks reveals a copious amount data relating to CIA hacking abilities, not just with regard to computers, but to the technological exploitation of various devices, including smartphones, iPads, smart TVs, and more.
The following statement was tweeted by WikiLeaks about the information:
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. 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.
There are a multitude of items for most people to be concerned about. Of these, the primary one is that the CIA seems to be lacking a serious security system to protect this kind of data from getting into the wrong hands. As WikiLeaks makes clear, whoever has the computer code has the power to inflict extraordinary damage across the globe, and no doubt could do so without having to leave the comfort of their own living room.
This is an extremely serious national security catastrophe representing a very clear and present danger to this nation no matter how anyone spins it, and it is monumentally bad news for the CIA, the U.S. government, and people everywhere because we have no way of knowing who else has this extraordinarily dangerous data or if it is already being set up and used by someone at this time.
The next prominent concern should make it clear that not every kind of technology should make its way into places it clearly does not belong. Using televisions as a means of spying on people is straight out of George Orwell’s novel, “Nineteen Eighty-Four”, and yet companies are installing their spy tech right into them.
Samsung’s “smart” televisions were specifically singled out in the CIA documents that were released, in which a program called “Weeping Angel” (a name apparently referencing the television show Doctor Who) can be used to compromise a Samsun F8000.
As reported in The Guardian:
The document dealing with Samsung televisions carries the CIA logo and is described as secret. It adds “USA/UK”. It says: “Accomplishments during joint workshop with MI5/BTSS (British Security Service) (week of June 16, 2014).”
It details how to fake it so that the television appears to be off but in reality can be used to monitor targets. It describes the television as being in “Fake Off” mode. Referring to UK involvement, it says: “Received sanitized source code from UK with comms and encryption removed.”
Though not specifically mentioned, it should be noted that earlier this year, television manufacturer Vizio was fined over $2 Million by the FTC for spying on 11 million customers. In an article about the infraction, The Washington Post stated:
According to the lawsuit, Vizio was literally watching its watchers — capturing “second-by-second information” about what people viewed on its smart TVs. That included data from cable, broadband, set-top boxes, over-the-air broadcasts, DVDs and streaming devices. Vizio also is accused of linking demographic information to the data and selling the data — including users’ sex, age and income — to companies that do targeted advertising.
These revelations should prove to be a lesson to everyone. If any of you have a “smart” TV in your home at this time, you might want to consider replacing it with a standard TV without all those technological bells and whistles. Well, if you value your (and your family’s) privacy in any way, that is.
The final concern should truly scare the hell out of everyone in the U.S. and throughout the world, because mentioned among the various aspects of hacking the CIA has developed for all of those various electronic devices like phones and TVs, this one stands out like a red flashing light: the ability to hack our cars and trucks.
In a CBS report on the WikiLeaks documents, they noted, “One document discusses hacking vehicle systems, indicating the CIA’s interest in hacking modern cars with sophisticated on-board computers.” In an additional report, they added, “Although WikiLeaks didn’t have details on how that might be used, it said the capability might allow the CIA to “engage in nearly undetectable assassinations.”
This revelation immediately reminded me of a Wired article from 2015, in which two people, Charlie Miller and Chris Valasek, engaged in a successful experiment using a “zero-day exploit” (just one method mentioned in WikiLeaks’ statement above) to take control of a Jeep Cherokee driven by Andy Greenberg, author of the article, using a laptop computer. The article and their experiment made national headlines and Chrysler conducted a recall of 1.4 million vehicles as a result of their demonstration that the vehicle could be remotely hacked and controlled.
It also reminded me of the controversy that surfaced two years previous to the Jeep Cherokee experiment, surrounding the untimely death of Rolling Stone writer Michael Hastings, whose article, “The Runaway General”, led to the downfall of General Stanley McChrystal.
Hastings’ Mercedes crashed in what authorities concluded was an accident resulting from traveling at high speed, but for others, it remains a mystery with numerous unanswered questions attached to it. Surveillance video posted by LA Weekly shows the vehicle passing by a pizzeria in its final moments before the fatal crash.
One of the first questions to be brought up concerning Michael Hastings’ death was whether it was possible that his car had been tampered with or if it could have been hijacked remotely. The matter had been put to rest as far as the official record is concerned, with any such thoughts dismissed as being in the realm of conspiracy theory.
But we are reminded by the former head of U.S. counterterrorism during President George W. Bush’s administration, Richard Clarke, that the idea cannot be so quickly discarded as officials would have us believe. As he stated to Huffington Post, “in the case of Michael Hastings, what evidence is available publicly is consistent with a car cyber-attack. And the problem with that is you can’t prove it,” and added that “I think you’d probably need the very best of the U.S. government intelligence or law enforcement officials to discover it.”
And now we have definitive proof, courtesy of WikiLeaks, that the CIA is actively developing that exact kind of capability, to hack vehicles for the purpose of undetectable assassinations. Who is to say it didn’t already exist at the time that Hastings’ car had crashed, but that it is actively being improved as newer, more sophisticated technologies are introduced into newer models of cars and trucks? How far-fetched can this be now that we actually know about it?
No doubt there will be more revelations to come from these documents as they are vetted and written about and discussed by various outlets in the future, but from what we already know, it’s quite enough to shake the Earth under our feet and rattle us out of our complacency when it comes to the intrusive nature of the various technologies we are using in our lives.
This has been a massively loud wake-up call for everyone. Do not let this fall into the media’s well-honed memory-hole. We need action regarding these revelations from our elected officials, and we need it now.