The world has once again been rocked by WikiLeaks. It’s “Vault 7” leak constitutes the largest-ever release of confidential CIA information.
Simply put, Julian Assange and the WikiLeaks team have exposed the entire extent of the CIA’s hacking abilities. It’s not good news. Not good at all.
To put the leak into perspective, says the organisation, this single leak is larger than the first three years of Edward Snowden’s NSA leaks.
On the surface, it seems pretty straightforward. The CIA, the USA’s foremost intelligence agency, is capable of spying on anyone with an iPhone or Android device, as well as PCs running Microsoft Windows or Samsung’s line of smart TVs.
Using malware and other nefarious digital means, the agency is able to effectively match the surveillance capabilities of the US National Security Agency, with “even less accountability”.
According to WikiLeaks, the CIA’s hackers had, by 2016, used more code than the entirety of Facebook. This code resulted in the creation of “more than a thousand hacking systems”.
WikiLeaks has asserted that its source for the leak has no other agenda but to “initiate a public debate about the security, creation, use, proliferation and democratic control of cyberweapons”.
Indeed, cyberweapons in state hands raise many questions of government accountability and surveillance. How far can the ‘democratic’ state delve into our personal lives?
Ethical questions aside for now, here’s a basic breakdown of the ways that the CIA gets into our devices, homes and lives.
WikiLeaks’ information shows that the CIA has direct access to mobile devices, including iPhones and Android smartphones, allowing it to track location, intercept communications, and even activate and use cameras and microphones.
The CIA’s recently developed technology even allows it to bypass WhasApp and Wiebo encryption. Not so secure, after all!
Audio hacking extends to its “Weeping Angel” tool, which allows it use microphones embedded in certain Samsung smart TVs. Very 1984.
TVs can be made to look as if they are in standby mode, allowing surveillance at all times.
Modern vehicles are often equipped with complex computer systems, and some remain connected to the internet for various services.
This is where the hacking gets even darker. The CIA, says WikiLeaks, has done research into infiltrating the control systems of modern vehicle. While no motive was officially declared in documentation, it’s not hard to imagine what this could be used for.
WikiLeaks notes that the CIA has exerted “substantial effort” to hack Microsoft Windows users, infecting through the internet as well as portable storage.
And all those Mac OSX users, listen up: you’re not safe either. Frankly, you never were.
The agency has found ways to compromise most anti-virus programs, too.
Is there a bright side?
No. Not really. Some may think that this level of surveillance will preempt and prevent attacks against the US, but that doesn’t change the fact that nothing is safe from prying eyes anymore.
Even here in South Africa, we’re not free from the CIA’s reach – and with our own censorship laws on the way, we have our own fight inbound.