Wikileaks releases trove of CIA documents codenamed 'Vault7'

Today Wikileaks released a cache of data codenamed 'Vault7,' claiming this is the single largest drop of confidential CIA documents ever. There are a total of 8,761 documents and files within this trove, and they detail a hidden world within the agency, one that operates with a fleet of hackers who work to help turn everyday gadgets like smartphones and smart TVs into covert surveillance devices.

Wikileaks stated in its announcement today that, "The CIA has created, in effect, it's 'own NSA' with even less accountability and without publicly answering the question as to whether such a massive budgetary spend on duplicating the capacities of a rival agency could be justified."

The CIA is said to have created a massive array of cyberweapons, ones that include software for hacking into smartphones, as well as exploits, malware, trojans, and more. This, of course, raises a very big issue — surveillance aside for a moment — about what happens when the agency loses control of its cyberweapons.

"Once a single cyber 'weapon' is 'loose,'" Wikileaks stated today, 'it can spread around the world in seconds, to be used by rival states, cyber mafia and teenage hackers alike." The collective says that while it has released a lot of data, it has been careful not to distribute the 'armed cyberweapons' at this time, instead waiting for debate and discussion among experts about how to proceed with analyzing and disarming the software.

Wikileaks also goes on to say that it has redacted 'tens of thousands' of 'attack machines' and targets located in the U.S, Latin America, and Europe.

Among the disturbing analysis is the revelation that the CIA has developed tools that can transform smart TVs into covert surveillance tools. Samsung smart TVs are targeted in particular, with the targeting software having been a joint creation between the CIA and the UK's MI5. The software is dubbed 'Weeping Angel' and works by putting the TV into a fake 'Off' mode, leading the owner to believe the TV is shut down.

When in this mode, the software can then use the television's microphone to record conversations and transmit those recordings to a CIA server via the target's own Internet connection. The documents also reveal CIA interest in compromising in-vehicle systems for turning cars into remote assassination machines. Smartphone hacks enable the CIA to gather data on targets such as geolocation, text messages, audio recordings, and more.

The agency paid particular attention to Apple's mobile devices, creating software that is able to infiltrate and control iPhones and iPads, sending data back to the CIA. Some software was developed by other agencies, including ones in the UK, and by contractors. Android has likewise been targeted, as has Microsoft's mobile OS.

The documents also reveal extensive focus on messaging apps, and the CIA's ability to get around the encryption used by WhatsApp, Telegram, Signal, Wiebo, Cloackman, and Confide. This is achieved by hacking the phones themselves and getting the messages directly from the handsets, entirely skipping the encryption aspect.

Mobile devices aren't the only target, of course; the documents also reveal the CIA's ability to target WiFi routers and computers running major operating systems, including Linux. Windows users are subjected to CIA-sourced malware, which can be transmitted via air gap jumping, infected USB drives, image files, and more.

The documents also reveal that the CIA has failed to uphold a deal that should have it disclosing vulnerabilities to affected companies, enabling them to fix the holes before rivals and hackers can exploit them. Instead, the CIA has kept secret various vulnerabilities and exploits it has discovered, allowing them to fester for other rival intelligence agencies and private collectives to find and abuse.

These vulnerabilities are said to affect many entities and individuals, including ones as major as Congress and U.S. Cabinet members, among others. These hacking efforts aren't limited to just the US, either; the documents also reveal that the Frankfurt US Consulate is a secret CIA base with massive hacking operations taking place.

All of this, of course, is just a sliver of the information revealed by the mass of documents. If you're feeling brave and have enough time on your hands, you can browse the documents here.

SOURCE: Wikileaks