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08 Mar 2017

Wikileaks unveils CIA cyber-hacking secrets

Thousands of documents with the codename “Vault 7” concerning CIA spying tactics were released by Wikileaks. The documents seem authentic and describe sophisticated software tools that help the secret service to break into smartphones, laptops and, in some cases, even smart TV sets.

Wikileaks reported, that this is the first part of a massive leak of documents that “circulated among former US hackers and private contractors in an unauthorized manner, one of whom provided the team with a portion of the archive”. “Vault 7” is consisted of 7818 web pages with 943 attachments. Wikileaks said in its statement that the target is “to initiate a public debate about the security and the democratic control of cyberweapons. Also, to publicly discuss if the CIA’s hacking capabilities exceed its mandated powers and who controls the Agency.”

But should the ordinary citizen be bothered? The answer is yes. CIA has the ability to bypass the security encryption of famous instant messaging apps, like Telegram and Whatsapp compromising the user’s phone and intercepting messages. A second style of infiltration, that was developed with the cooperation of the British MI5, is attacking smart TV sets and transforming them into large wiretapping devices. CIA agents can also use malware that can hide their presence inside a system or alternate records without being detected.

CIA agents use special software that can disguise their trails and make an infiltration look like it’s coming from Russia, Iran or China rather the US. Tarah Wheeler, a director of the internet security company Symantec, told Reuters that “those extremely sophisticated tools can be used to target an individual device but there is no information on mass exploiting of mobile devices”.

The CIA denied to comment on the authenticity, or the content of the documents released by Wikileaks, which are dated from 2013-2016. Apple and Google denied to comment on the Wikileaks documents. Sean Spicer, the White House Press secretary, was asked by journalists about what was Donald Trump’s opinion on the matter since he had praised Wikileaks for leaking Hillary Clinton’s e-mails. Spicer answered that “there is a difference between Gmail accounts and classified information. The President made that distinction a few weeks ago”.

Edward Snowden commented on his Twitter account, that the publication is genuinely a big deal and that the CIA tactic of developing vulnerabilities in US products, is totally reckless. If the authenticity of the documents is confirmed, this is will be the largest-ever publication of confidential documents in the history of CIA.