The Tuesday press release by WikiLeaks for their Vault7 CIA document dump included information regarding the activities of the agency in the development of a capability to infect and compromise every day devices which have computer processors in critical areas.
They describe the CIA’s use of malware and hacking tools constructed through their Engineering Development Group (EDG), a software development group within their Center for Cyber Intelligence (CCI), a department belonging to the CIA’s Directorate for Digital Innovation, DDI. The DDI is one of the five major directorates of the CIA. As WikiLeaks’ Julian Assange explains:
The EDG is responsible for the development, testing and operational support of all backdoors, exploits, malicious payloads, trojans, viruses and any other kind of malware used by the CIA in its covert operations world-wide.
The increasing sophistication of surveillance techniques has drawn comparisons with George Orwell’s 1984, but ‘Weeping Angel,’ developed by the CIA’s Embedded Devices Branch (EDB), which infests smart TVs, transforming them into covert microphones, is surely its most emblematic realization.
The attack against Samsung smart TVs was developed in cooperation with the United Kingdom’s MI5/BTSS. After infestation, Weeping Angel places the target TV in a ‘Fake-Off’ mode, so that the owner falsely believes the TV is off when it is on. In ‘Fake-Off’ mode the TV operates as a bug, recording conversations in the room and sending them over the Internet to a covert CIA server.
As of October 2014 the CIA was also looking at infecting the vehicle control systems used by modern cars and trucks. The purpose of such control is not specified, but it would permit the CIA to engage in nearly undetectable assassinations.”
This brings to mind the case of Michael Hastings, a journalist for BuzzFeed and Rolling Stone, who died under suspicious circumstances in June of 2013. His car, in which he was the sole occupant, was being driven at an uncharacteristically high speed on Highland Ave in Los Angeles, exploding at 4:20 am when it crossed a median and struck a palm tree.
At the time Hastings was working on a profile of CIA director John Brennan for Rolling Stone. It’s doubtful he was filling paragraphs with a superlative-laden documentation of Brennan’s openness and patriotic fidelity to the Constitution. Hastings’s previous 2010 article on General Stanley McChrystal had led to his being removed from his position. Perhaps Brennan sought to test out their new technology on a convenient “volunteer.” Hastings admitted to friends and contacts that he had become very fearful for his safety in the last few weeks of his life, particularly in the last couple of days prior to his odd “accident.” Assange continued, “
The CIA’s Mobile Devices Branch (MDB) developed numerous attacks to remotely hack and control popular smart phones. Infected phones can be instructed to send the CIA the user’s geolocation, audio and text communications as well as covertly activate the phone’s camera and microphone.
Despite iPhone’s minority share (14.5%) of the global smart phone market in 2016, a specialized unit in the CIA’s Mobile Development Branch produces malware to infest, control and exfiltrate data from iPhones and other Apple products running iOS, such as iPads. CIA’s arsenal includes numerous local and remote ‘zero days’ developed by CIA or obtained from GCHQ, NSA, FBI or purchased from cyber arms contractors such as Baitshop. The disproportionate focus on iOS may be explained by the popularity of the iPhone among social, political, diplomatic and business elites.
A similar unit targets Google’s Android which is used to run the majority of the world’s smart phones (~85%) including Samsung, HTC and Sony. 1.15 billion Android powered phones were sold last year. ‘Year Zero’ shows that as of 2016 the CIA had 24 ‘weaponized’ Android ‘zero days’ which it has developed itself and obtained from GCHQ, NSA and cyber arms contractors.
These techniques permit the CIA to bypass the encryption of WhatsApp, Signal, Telegram, Wiebo, Confide and Cloackman by hacking the ‘smart’ phones that they run on and collecting audio and message traffic before encryption is applied.”
It does appear that anything that is part of the so-called “Internet of things” has the potential to be used as a weapon against us. All of this is being done in secret, beyond our reach, without any meaningful supervision and without our knowledge.
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