Newly released by WikiLeaks today is a collection of CIA documents referred to as “Vault 7,” detailing the CIA’s hacking and surveillance technology development. The current release spans “Year 0” of the program, with several more years of documents expected to be released.
Officially called “Weeping Angel,” the program sought 0-day exploits in myriad technology, including not just computers and routers, but things like smartphones and even Smart TVs, with documents showing the CIA could make a Samsung-branded TV go into a “fake-off” mode, where it would appear to be turned off, but its microphone was active and the CIA could listen in to everything happening.
The same was true of the phones targeted, with the CIA having what is said to be a large cache of exploits against both Apple and Android-based phones, exploits they carefully kept guarded from the manufacturers of the phones so that the flaws were never properly repaired. The phone breaches were focused in part on having an OS-level exploit that would render security features in encrypted applications useless,
Also among the efforts, the CIA was trying to hack into cars, with an eye toward gaining remote control over cars anywhere in the world, leading to speculation that the cars would be made to “assassinate” the drivers in an undetectable manner.
The CIA hid its discoveries not just from companies that might fix them, but also from the rest of the US government, meaning they knowingly let cabinet members, Congress and other top officials use knowingly vulnerable technology for secure purposes rather than reveal what they’d discovered.
The plan is described by some as an effort by the CIA to create its own NSA within the agency, only with even less oversight to the program. Ironically, it appears this NSA ended up producing its own Edward Snowden, as another whistleblower has come forward to uncover the CIA’s misdeeds, and to start another national dialogue on government surveillance.
It will be interesting, as the rest of the documents from later years come out, to see how much of the CIA’s operations were targeted against Americans, as of course the CIA is expressly forbidden from spying on Americans. It will also be interested to see the political reaction, as this program appears to have operated largely during President Obama’s time in office, meaning Democrats will likely be defensive about it. The Trump Administration, at the same time, is likely to be furious at any big leak, as they’ve been struggling with such leaks recently.