This should grab the headlines for quite a while, and deservedly so, except that it should not distract investigative journalists and Congress from investigating Russia’s attempts to influence the 2016 elections and the extent to which, if any, members of Trump’s administration, campaign, or transition team communicated with Russia about the election.
Tim Johnson reports:
The CIA has built up a formidable hacking division that has amassed ways to control smartphones worldwide and turn on the microphones in Samsung smart televisions, WikiLeaks said Tuesday.
WikiLeaks released what it said were 8,761 documents taken from the CIA’s Center for Cyber Intelligence in Langley, Virginia, in what it described as “the largest intelligence publication in history.”
The documents indicate that the CIA has collected “more than a thousand hacking systems, trojans, viruses and other ‘weaponized’ malware” that allow the agency to overcome encryption and seize control of devices from the biggest tech firms worldwide, including Apple, Google, Microsoft and Samsung. It said the CIA had purposefully withheld information from the manufacturers about the vulnerabilities in their systems, undermining a promise offered by former President Barack Obama to the high-tech industry.
A CIA spokesman declined to say whether the purported leak was real.
Read more on McClatchy. Note that there are already a lot of inaccurate headlines, mostly based on mis-reporting by WikiLeaks, about whether the CIA had broken encryption on apps such as WhatsApp, Telegram, and Signal. No, the documents don’t prove that the CIA broke encryption. What the documents appear to show is that if the CIA was able to compromise your phone or device, then having one of those apps wouldn’t totally protect your communications.
So as you read the news today and in the days to come, go slowly, and let’s wait for more careful analyses by experts. Because despite the CIA’s refusal to confirm or deny the authenticity of the files, some people in the know have already stated publicly that the documents appear to be real.
What damage this will do to the CIA’s ability to hack enemies or monitor the bad guys, well, that remains to be see. For myself, I’m just pondering whether this act of WikiLeaks should rightfully be considered treason.