WikiLeaks released Tuesday claiming that thousands of secret CIA files showing how U.S. spies hack smartphones such as Android and iOS devices, as well as exposing a major secret listening post in Germany.
The Office of the Director of National Intelligence declined to comment, and the CIA in a statement would not say whether the files are real.
A spokesman for the CIA would not confirm the details.
“We do not comment on the authenticity or content of purported intelligence documents,” said CIA spokesperson Jonathan Liu.
WikiLeaks said a former government contractor leaked the tranche of files.
Wikileaks said that its source had shared the details with it to prompt a debate into whether the CIA’s hacking capabilities had exceeded its mandated powers.
“Recently, the CIA lost control of the majority of its hacking arsenal including malware, viruses, trojans, weaponized ‘zero day’ exploits, malware remote control systems and associated documentation. This extraordinary collection, which amounts to more than several hundred million lines of code, gives its possessor the entire hacking capacity of the CIA. The archive appears to have been circulated among former U.S. government hackers and contractors in an unauthorized manner, one of whom has provided WikiLeaks with portions of the archive,” WikiLeaks said in a statement accompanying more than 8,000 pages of documents.
The WikiLeaks recent files also revealed that the U.S. Consulate in Frankfurt is a major hacker outpost for the most important and sensitive operations, and a former official confirmed that it is the major nerve center for covert joint CIA and National Security Agency voice collection around the globe.
The current and former officials could not corroborate WikiLeaks’ claim that a former contractor was behind the massive security breach but said it was very possible, if not highly likely.
The leaked files show an interest taken by CIA’s Center for Cyber Intelligence to find different ways to turn electronic devices used by the people from smart TVs to Google Android and Apple IOS devices, including smartphones and tablets, into remotely activated spy devices. The files detail efforts made to access messages before they are encrypted by security apps or to turn on the phone or to activate the tablet’s camera and microphone without the owner’s awareness. An entire office at CCI is devoted to exploiting mobile smart devices, the documents suggest.
Edward Snowden tweeted today that the CIA files reveal a “security hole the CIA left open to hack into any iPhone in the world,” an official familiar with such intelligence activities said usually a human spy is necessary — a “cyber middleman” — who can first gain physical access to a device.
Many experts in cyber security on social media after the leaks focused attention on the capability of U.S. intelligence to hack smart devices such as Samsung smart TVs, which the leaked files said can be in “fake off mode” when in reality the microphone is turned into a room-listening device without anyone nearby knowing it because the TV appears to be off.
“Pretty much anything can be made into an eavesdropping device,” said a former official.
However, Samsung, in its user manual warns users that their speech can be transmitted through the internet to third parties.
In the last 10 years, WikiLeaks has published an incredible amount of secret U.S. information — about military operations in Iraq, Guantanamo Bay and, more recently, Democratic National Committee emails hacked by Russian intelligence.