WikiLeaks on Tuesday published a set of documents that it says exposes the “scope and direction” of the United States’ Central Intelligence Agency’s “global covert hacking program”. Vault 7, which the non-profit claims is its largest-ever publication of confidential data on the CIA, shares information on the agency’s “malware arsenal” and “weaponised exploits”.
“Year Zero” – the first part of the Vault 7 series – comprises 8,761 documents that reveal that the CIA targeted products of US and European companies, including Apple’s iPhone, Google’s Android, Microsoft’s Windows and Samsung smart TVs, and turned them into covert microphones or bugs to spy on people.
WikiLeaks said the data came from an “isolated, high-security network” inside the CIA’s Center for Cyber Intelligence in Langley, Virgina, headquarters. It said the intelligence agency had recently “lost control of the majority of its hacking arsenal including malware, viruses, trojans, weaponized ‘zero day’ exploits, malware remote control systems and associated documentation”. The database is believed to have been circulated among former US government hackers and contractors illegally, one of whom passed on the information to WikiLeaks.
The WikiLeaks source questioned whether “the CIA’s hacking capabilities had exceed its mandated powers” and hopes for “a public debate about the security, creation, use, proliferation and democratic control of cyber weapons”. “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,” said WikiLeaks Founder Julian Assange.
The publication was released after links Assange’s Periscope and Facebook live video were attacked. The whistleblowing organisation revealed “Year Zero” on social after careful review, but held back publishing data on “armed cyberweapons until a consensus emerges on the technical and political nature of the CIA’s programme”.