On Tuesday, WikiLeaks published thousands of new documents allegedly obtained from the Central Intelligence Agency. And if the documents are legitimate, they prove the U.S. government has taken advantage of common technology to spy on users of consumer electronics. Dubbed “Year Zero,” the trove of data is said to expose the CIA’s hacking tools used to break into phones, computers, and smart TVs. WikiLeaks and announced the leak is the first part of a new series called “Vault 7,” which will be “the largest ever publication of confidential documents on the [CIA].”
“Year Zero” consists of 8,761 documents and files that were reportedly taken from the CIA's Center for Cyber Intelligence network. The bulk of the information focuses on the intelligence agency’s shady methods to bypass encryption used to prevent hacking and spying.
For example, the documents claim a CIA-developed program called “Weeping Angel” allows the government to infest Samsung’s F8000 smart TVs and use the command microphone to listen to conversations. The program allegedly employs the “fake-off” mode, which fools the user into believing the device is off when, in fact, the microphone is still on. Unbeknownst to the user, the conversations could then be recorded and sent to a covert CIA server. The documents also claim the CIA’s malware has targeted some of the most popular tech products in the country, including Apple’s iPhone, Google’s Android, and Microsoft Windows.
As expected, WikiLeaks has provided very little details about its source:
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.
According to the Associated Press, the CIA and the director of national intelligence have declined to comment on the leaks; however, Rep. Devin Nunes, the chairman of the House intelligence committee, told reporters he was “extremely concerned” about the documents, and has asked the intelligence community for more information.
Some have expressed their suspicion about the timing of the leak. Experts have suggested the documents were published to distract the country from the controversy surrounding Donald Trump’s relationship with Russia and the intelligence community.
It’s also important to point out that some U.S. officials have criticized WikiLeaks for working with the Russian intelligence to give Trump the upper hand in the 2016 election. Though there is no solid evidence that Trump colluded with Russian officials during the race, there are suspicions that Russia provided WikiLeaks with the hacked emails from the DNC and Hillary Clinton’s campaign manager, John Podesta. Trump continuously praised the hacks and encouraged WikiLeaks to reveal more.