WikiLeaks on Tuesday published thousands of documents described as secret files about CIA hacking tools the US government employs to break into users’ computers, mobile phones and even smart TVs from companies such as Apple, Google, Microsoft and Samsung.
The documents describe clandestine methods for bypassing or defeating encryption, antivirus tools and other protective security features intended to keep the private information of citizens and corporations safe from prying eyes.
US government employees, including US President Donald Trump, use many of the same products and Internet services purportedly compromised by the tools.
The documents describe CIA efforts — cooperating with other governments and the US National Security Agency — to subvert the world’s most popular technology platforms, including Apple’s iPhones and iPads, Google’s Android phones and the Microsoft Windows operating system for desktop computers and laptops.
The documents also include discussions about compromising some Internet-connected televisions to turn them into listening posts. One document discusses hacking vehicle systems, indicating the CIA’s interest in hacking modern cars with sophisticated onboard computers.
WikiLeaks has a long track record of releasing top-secret government documents, and experts who sifted through the material said it appeared legitimate.
US House of Representatives Committee on Intelligence Chairman Devin Nunes said he was very concerned about the release and had asked the intelligence community for more information about it.
Former CIA director Mike Hayden told MSNBC he had undertaken only a cursory review of the documents, but that if they were what they were purported to be, it would amount to a “very extensive file of the tactics, techniques, procedures, targets and other political rules” under which the CIA hacks targets.
“If it is that, it would be very, very damaging,” he said.
The CIA and White House declined to comment.
Missing from WikiLeaks’ trove are the actual hacking tools themselves, some of which were developed by government hackers, while others were purchased from outsiders.
WikiLeaks said it planned to avoid distributing tools “until a consensus emerges” on the political nature of the CIA’s program and how such software could be analyzed, disarmed and published.
Tuesday’s disclosure left anxious consumers who use the products with little recourse, since repairing the software vulnerabilities in ways that might block the tools’ effectiveness is the responsibility of leading technology companies.
It was not immediately clear how WikiLeaks obtained the information and details in the documents could not immediately be verified.
WikiLeaks said the material came from “an isolated, high-
security network” inside the CIA’s Center for Cyber Intelligence, but did not say whether the files were removed by a rogue employee or whether the theft involved hacking a federal contractor working for the agency or perhaps breaking into a staging server where such information might have been temporarily stored.
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