WikiLeaks published thousands of purported CIA documents Tuesday that claim to show intimate details of the agency’s cyberespionage effort, including malware that turns iPhones, Android cell phones and Samsung smart TVs into bugs and spy cams.
The release comprises 8,761 documents and files from an isolated, high-security network situated inside the CIA’s Center for Cyber Intelligence in Langley, Virginia, according to WikiLeaks.
The documents include information about a CIA cyber intelligence outpost in the U.S. consulate in Frankfurt, Germany, that gave the cyber spies access throughout the European Union.
The documents could not immediately be authenticated. But a cybersecurity expert, Rendition Infosec founder Jake Williams, told The Associated Press that the dump appeared legitimate.
The documents detail some of the roughly 500 projects from the CIA’s Engineering Development Group (EDG), the majority of which consists of tools used for penetration, infestation or implanting, control and exfiltration from computer systems.
The CIA’s “Weeping Angel” spyware attack on Samsung smart TVs, which was developed in cooperation with the United Kingdom’s MI5, places target TVs in a “Fake-Off” mode and then operates the TV as a listening device. The recorded conversations are then transmitted over the Internet to a covert CIA server, according to the documents.
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The data also revealed a CIA project in 2014 that attempted to infect vehicle-control systems used by modern cars and truck. The purpose of the cyberattack was not specified, but it would potentially give the CIA control over operation of vehicles.
WikiLeaks speculated the agency could use the hack to “engage in nearly undetectable assassinations.”
WikiLeaks editor Julian Assange said the document dump, which he dubbed “Year Zero,” revealed the extent of U.S. cyberespionage and the risk proliferation this unchecked technology posed to the world.
“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,” he said in a statement. “But the significance of “Year Zero” goes well beyond the choice between cyberwar and cyberpeace. The disclosure is also exceptional from a political, legal and forensic perspective.”
WikiLeaks said that it carefully reviewed the “Year Zero” disclosure and published substantive CIA documentation while avoiding the distribution of “armed” cyberweapons, awaiting a consensus on the technical and political nature of the CIA’s program and how such “weapons” should be analyzed, disarmed and published.
WikiLeaks also redacted and rendered anonymous some identifying information in “Year Zero” documents. The redactions include ten of thousands of CIA targets and attack machines throughout Latin America, Europe and the United States, according to WikiLeaks.
The “Year Zero” dump eclipsed the total number of pages published over the first three years of information from NSA leaker Edward Snowden.