WikiLeaks on Tuesday released what it said is the full hacking capacity of the CIA in a stunning 8,000-plus page disclosure the anti-secrecy website contends is “the largest ever publication of confidential documents on the agency.”
The 8,761 documents and files — released as “Vault 7 Part 1” and titled “Year Zero” — were obtained from an “isolated, high-security network” at the CIA’s Center for Cyber Intelligence in Langley, Va., a press release from the website said. The trove had been “circulated among former U.S. government hackers and contractors,” one of whom “recently” gave the archive to WikiLeaks. The CIA allegedly employs more than 5,000 people in its cyber spying operation and had produced more than 1,000 programs as of 2016.
“We do not comment on the authenticity or content of purported intelligence documents,” a CIA spokesperson told Fox News.
The collection of purported intelligence documents includes information on CIA-developed malware — bearing names such as “Assassin” and “Medusa” — intended to target iPhones, Android phones, smart TVs and Microsoft, Mac and Linux operating systems, among others. An entire unit in the CIA is devoted to inventing programs to hack data from Apple products, according to WikiLeaks.
Some of the remote hacking programs can allegedly turn numerous electronic devices into recording and transmitting stations to spy on their targets, with the information then sent back to secret CIA servers. One document appears to show the CIA was trying to “infect” vehicle control systems in cars and trucks for unspecified means.
WikiLeaks hinted that the capabilites revealed in Tuesday’s disclosure could have even darker utility than simply spying.
“It would permit the CIA to engage in nearly undetectable assassinations,” the release stated.
The site said the CIA additionally failed to disclose security vulnerabilities and bugs to major U.S. software manufacturers, violating an Obama administration commitment made in January 2014. Instead, the agency used the software vulnerabilities — which could also be exploited by rival agencies, nations and groups — for its own ends, WikiLeaks said.
“As an example, specific CIA malware revealed in ‘Year Zero’ is able to penetrate, infest and control both the Android phone and iPhone software that runs or has run presidential Twitter accounts,” the WikiLeaks release stated.
Digital rights non-profit Access Now said in a statement on Tuesday it was “fantasy to believe only the ‘good guys'” would be able to use the discovered vulnerabilities.
“Today, our digital security has been compromised because the CIA has been stockpiling vulnerabilities rather than working with companies to patch them,” Senior Legislative Manager Nathan White said.
The CIA allegedly also maintains a database of malware created in other nations — WikiLeaks specifically cites Russia — in order to disguise its own hacking attempts as the work of another group.
In what is described by WikiLeaks as “one of the most astounding intelligence own goals in living memory,” the CIA is said to have made most of its programs unclassified to avoid legal consequences for transmitting classified information through the Internet — a move that increased the risk of outside groups pirating the cyber spying tools.
WikiLeaks also revealed the U.S. Consulate in Frankfurt is a hacking base, and the website provided the methods by which agents obfuscate customs officers to gain entry to Germany, pretending to provide technical consultation.
WikiLeaks said its source released the files because they believed questions surrounding the CIA’s reach “urgently need to be debated in public,” echoing the motives of many previous leakers.
PSA: This incorrectly implies CIA hacked these apps / encryption. But the docs show iOS/Android are what got hacked – a much bigger problem. https://twitter.com/wikileaks/status/839120909625606152 …
One such former leaker, Edward Snowden, tweeted Tuesday afternoon about the WikiLeaks release.
“Still working through the publication, but what @Wikileaks has here is genuinely a big deal. Looks authentic,” wrote Snowden, who has been granted asylum in Russia as he seeks to avoid criminal prosecution in the U.S.
Some of the WikiLeaks files include redacted information, such as tens “of thousands of CIA targets and attack machines throughout Latin America, Europe and the United States.”