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Tuesday, March 07, 2017
WikiLeaks Claims Gadgets, Tvs Enable Snooping

The latest on the publication by WikiLeaks of what it described as confidential files about CIA hacking activities, include a secret CIA surveillance program that targets everyday gadgets ranging from smart TVs to smartphones to cars, security of phones and communication apps.

The documents released by WikiLeaks allege that CIA's program could turn devices into recorders that could snoop on everyday conversations - and could also circumvent data-scrambling encryption on communications apps such as Facebook's WhatsApp.

Just last year, the two sides feuded over the FBI's calls for Apple to rewrite its operating system so that agents could break into the locked iPhone used by one of the San Bernardino attackers. The FBI ultimately broke into the phone with the help of an outside party; the agency has neither disclosed the party nor the nature of the vulnerability, preventing Apple from fixing it.

According to WikiLeaks, much of the CIA program centered on dozens of vulnerabilities it discovered but didn't disclose to the gadget makers.

Instead, WikiLeaks claims, the CIA held on to the knowledge in order to conduct a variety of attacks. As a result, tech companies such as Apple, Google and Microsoft haven't been able to make the necessary fixes.

"Serious vulnerabilities not disclosed to the manufacturers places huge swathes of the population and critical infrastructure at risk to foreign intelligence or cyber criminals who independently discover or hear rumors of the vulnerability," WikiLeaks wrote in a press release. "If the CIA can discover such vulnerabilities so can others."

WikiLeaks claims the hacks allowed the CIA to collect audio and other messages from communication apps such as WhatsApp, Signal, Telegram and Confide by intercepting data before it is encrypted or after it's decoded. WikiLeaks says the CIA had separate teams looking for vulnerabilities in iPhones and Android phones and also targeted tablets such as iPads.

WikiLeaks also claims that the CIA worked with U.K. intelligence officials to turn microphones in Samsung smart TVs into listening devices.

But WikiLeaks claims that a CIA hack makes the target TV appear to be off when it's actually on - and listening. WikiLeaks says the audio goes to a covert CIA server rather than a party authorized by Samsung.

Other tools in the CIA's arsenal target PCs running Microsoft's Windows system, according to WikiLeaks, which says many of the attacks are in the form of viruses designed to spread through CDs and USB drives.

WikiLeaks also says the CIA was also targeting control systems used by cars and trucks, possibly allowing the CIA to "engage in nearly undetectable assassinations."

The CIA and White House declined comment. "We do not comment on the authenticity or content of purported intelligence documents," CIA spokesman Jonathan Liu said in a statement.

Google declined to comment on the reported hacking of its Android platform, but said it was investigating the matter.

WikiLeaks said it published the CIA documents "while avoiding the distribution of 'armed' cyber weapons until a consensus emerges on the technical and political nature of the CIA's program and how such 'weapons' should be analyzed, disarmed and published."

U.S. intelligence agencies have said that Wikileaks has ties to Russia's security services. WikiLeaks has denied ties to Russian spy agencies.

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