WikiLeaks have released a series of documents that contain strong suggestions that the CIA have been hacking Android, Linux, Windows, Apple iOS and MacOS and even Samsung TVs. The statement, released on Tuesday 7 March, announced “WikiLeaks begins its new series of leaks on the US Central Intelligence Agency. Code-named ‘Vault 7’ by WikiLeaks, it is the largest ever publication of confidential documents on the agency.”
This comes as part of their ‘Year Zero’ campaign, the first part of a series dubbed ‘Vault 7’ that comprises of 8,761 documents and files taken from the CIA’s Center for Cyber Intelligence in Langley, Virginia. According to WikiLeaks, “‘Year Zero’ introduces the scope and direction of the CIA’s global covert hacking program, its malware arsenal and dozens of ‘zero day’ weaponized exploits against a wide range of US and European company products.”
— WikiLeaks (@wikileaks) March 7, 2017
According to the released documents, the Mobile Devices Branch of the CIA have created tools for hacking a number of devices, including Android and iOS smartphones, in order to remotely acquire location data, audio and text communications and to automatically turn on microphones and cameras. CIA whistleblower Edward Snowden suggested that all of this seems convincing, tweeting “what @Wikileaks has here is genuinely a big deal. Looks authentic.”
Still working through the publication, but what @Wikileaks has here is genuinely a big deal. Looks authentic.
— Edward Snowden (@Snowden) March 7, 2017
WikiLeaks founder, Julian Assange, claimed in a statement that “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. 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.”
These Year Zero documents, which cover the time period of 2013 – 2016, are available to download after being made public yesterday. Assange was unable establish the contents of these, however, due to a cyber attack during the live stream of an online press conference via [Periscope]+Facebook. WikiLeaks said that the CIA has been building “not just a drone fleet but a very different type of covert, globe-spanning force — its own substantial fleet of hackers” and claimed that by 2016, CIA “hackers had utilized more code than that used to run Facebook.”
WikiLeaks are hoping that these documents, the largest intelligence publication in history, will begin a public debate regarding issues of the creation, security, use, democratic control and proliferation of cyber weapons and highlight the notion that once one of these cyber weapons becomes “loose” they can be spread globally in a matter of seconds, being used by anyone from cyber mafia to amateur hackers at home.
So, why are Vault 7 documents being released now? At the start of the year, WikiLeaks vowed to drop a huge bombshell. Then, in February, the Trump administration issued an Executive Order to review issues of ‘Cyberwar’ to happen in the following 30 days. Starting on February 4, WikiLeaks released a series of cryptic tweets, framed as Who, What, Where, When, Why and How questions alongside an image ‘clue’. The tweets included images such as the Svalbard Global Seed Vault, known as the Doomsday vault in Norway, Nazi caves used to store gold during WWII and one which showed famous whistleblowers including Assange, Snowden and Bradley Manning with the headline “infamous spies”. Conspiracies came flooding in, creating a monumental build up to the leak, which was released as soon as “verification and analysis were ready.” Naturally, WikiLeaks are not planning to release the names of sources that allowed them to gain this information and are not worried that the CIA will act against them to stop the series, claiming that it would be “counterproductive.”
WikiLeaks last significant leak was the publication of thousands of emails from the personal account of Hilary Clinton’s account manager, John Podesta, in the weeks leading up to the Presidential Election. This was a devastating blow to Clinton’s campaign, turning the public against her and paving the way for Trump’s victory. Despite claims, Assange continues to assert that the Russian Government were not involved in gaining this information.