WikiLeaks has just released thousands of new files, claiming it is the largest-ever leak of confidential Central Intelligence Agency documents.
The explosive revelations contain descriptions of various hacking tools and other techniques deployed by the CIA to carry out mass surveillance.
The leaks, collectively dubbed “Vault 7,” will be released in parts.
The first dump published in the series is called “Year Zero.” It contains a total of 8,761 documents and details “expansive capabilities” of CIA’s “global covert hacking program.”
Among the many shocking disclosures in the first set of leaks, there’s an alleged program, called "Weeping Angel," created partnership with the British spy agency, MI5. Apparently, it can turn Samsung smart TVs into secret listening devices.
"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," the press release accompanying the release from WikiLeaks said. "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."
CIA malware also targeted iPhones, Android systems and Microsoft software, according to the new leaks. The hack allowed phones to take photos even when owners thought they were switched off.
A widely reported claim, following the release of “Year Zero,” was that CIA broke encryption of messaging apps like Signal or WhatsApp but that’s not true.
“It’s not that the encryption on Signal, WhatsApp (which uses the same encryption protocol as Signal) or Telegram has been broken,” New York Magazine reports. “It’s that the CIA may have a way to break into Android devices that are using Signal and other encrypted messaging apps, and thus be able see what users are typing and reading before it becomes encrypted.”
The CIA accused WikiLeaks of putting the American people at risk by releasing the documents.
"The American public should be deeply troubled by any WikiLeaks disclosure designed to damage the intelligence community’s ability to protect America against terrorists and other adversaries," a statement from the agency reads.
"Such disclosures not only jeopardize U.S. personnel and operations, but also equip our adversaries with tools and information to do us harm.”
Meanwhile, tech companies such as Apple and Samsung vowed to immediately fix any security holes in their products.
Here's Apple's statement on iOS-related stuff in the WikiLeaks CIA data dump. pic.twitter.com/QiAWx8ZXpT— John Paczkowski (@JohnPaczkowski) March 8, 2017
Samsung issued a similar statement:
"Protecting consumers' privacy and the security of our devices is a top priority at Samsung. We are aware of the report in question and are urgently looking into the matter."
The New York Times reported a former intelligence has said the some of the information included in the dump "appears to be genuine”
This could be one of the most explosive disclosures of mass government surveillance since the national security leaks by whistleblower Edward Snowden revelations in 2013.
Banner and thumbnail credit: Reuters, Toru Hanai