Recently Wikileaks started releasing confidential documents from the CIA in a new series they are calling Vault 7. In the first part of the series, called Year Zero, they released over 8700 documents they claim to be confidential CIA hacking and spying documents. These documents are believed to spell out all the cyberweapons the CIA use to spy on potential targets. One such way to spy on targets is through the microphones inside smartphones, smart TVs, home assistants(like Amazon Echo and Google Home) and anything else that has internet access and has a built in microphone. The surveillance technique known as “Weeping Angel”, developed by the CIA’s Embedded Devices Branch (EDB), which infests smart TVs, transforming them into covert microphones, is a main focus. As stated in Year Zero, “The attack against Samsung smart TVs was developed in cooperation with the United Kingdom’s MI5/BTSS. 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. 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.”
WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange stated “The CIA lost control of its entire cyber weapons arsenal” during a March 9th interview. He pledged to release details the CIA hacking playbook to tech companies so that they can these areas can be fixed and these companies could secure their customer’s security. Assange went on to acknowledged that some companies had asked for more details about the CIA cyberespionage toolkit that he purportedly revealed in a massive disclosure.This statement has led the White House to release a statement that accepting these documents in any form is a crime.
From this the CIA and FBI have launched a full investigation into how documents of this type of sensitive information were stolen and who is the person behind it. It is believed that these documents came from a CIA employee. This response comes after representatives from the CIA still have not released any statement about the legitimacy of the documents released. There official remarks were, “We do not comment on the authenticity or content of purported intelligence documents.” CIA spokesperson Jonathan Liu said. No one else has come out and stated if the documents released have been altered or not. If the new Wikileaks dump proves valid, and the source does turn out to be a mole inside the CIA, then it will be the second release of information about critical intelligence tools in a year by an insider. On Aug. 27, NSA contractor Harold Martin III was arrested for hoarding agency documents. He is suspected of offering NSA tools for sale.
It has, however, led to major companies to start looking into the flaws associated to their company. The Year Zero document revealed multiple zero days in iOS that Apple has said it’s working to fix. “While our initial analysis indicates that many of the issues leaked today were already patched in the latest iOS, we will continue work to rapidly address any identified vulnerabilities,” the company said in a statement sent to TechCrunch. Likewise, Google said many of the Android exploits have already been remedied. “”As we’ve reviewed the documents, we’re confident that security updates and protections in both Chrome and Android already shield users from many of these alleged vulnerabilities,” Heather Adkins, the director of information security and privacy at Google, said in a statement sent to ZDNet.
Another section within the Year Zero post that has drawn a lot of attention is on UMBRAGE. “The CIA’s Remote Devices Branch’s UMBRAGE group collects and maintains a substantial library of attack techniques ‘stolen’ from malware produced in other states including the Russian Federation…With UMBRAGE and related projects the CIA cannot only increase its total number of attack types but also misdirect attribution by leaving behind the “fingerprints” of the groups that the attack techniques were stolen from.” per the Wikileaks document.
It will be interesting to see how the CIA responds to these document leaks as Wikileaks continues to reveal more documents.
To read the first part of the Wikileaks Vault 7 series, Year Zero, click here.