On Tuesday March 7th, WikiLeaks released the largest ever publication of confidential documents on the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency, code-named “Vault 7”. The documents describe software, tools and techniques used by the agency to break into commonly used smartphones, computers and even smart televisions.
WikiLeaks is dubbing this leak as a part of a “series”, meaning the 8,761 documents and files released from an isolated, high-security network situated inside the CIA’s Center for Cyber Intelligence in Langley are only the first installment. The documents outline instructions for compromising popular tools for spying like Skype, Whatsapp, Telegram, Signal, commercial antivirus programs, and Internet Explorer. Instead of helping tech companies resolve these security weaknesses, the documents allege that the CIA used them for spying all around the world.
According to the leak, the CIA can allegedly crash virtually any computer and has managed to compromise both Apple and Android smartphones to spy on unsuspecting targets. The CIA’s hacking division, which falls under the agency’s Center for Cyber Intelligence (CCI), has produced more than a thousand hacking systems, trojans, viruses, and other “weaponized” malware. The security risk of building and maintaining these hacking tools is huge; if they fall into the wrong hands, they could create a global crisis.
Julian Assange, WikiLeaks founder and editor says, “There is an extreme proliferation risk in the development of cyber ‘weapons’. Comparisons can be drawn between the uncontrolled proliferation of such ‘weapons’, which results from the inability to contain them combined with their high market value, and the global arms trade.” Assange, in an online news conference, also said that Wikileaks was prepared to share leaked code that it has not yet published with all technology companies, to help them fix the security vulnerabilities described in the leaked documents.
WikiLeaks is set to release more revelations about government agencies in coming days, as part of its “Year Zero” leaks.