“Vault 7”: Wikileaks’ Latest Spread of Classified Documents
On March 7, 2017 Wikileaks published thousands of files describing CIA’s hacking tools. The documents purportedly describe in detail how the agency can hack into televisions, smart phones, and messaging applications. A total of 8, 761 documents have been released under the name “Year Zero”. According to the site there are more to come. The documents originate from an “isolated, high security” network inside the Center for Cyber Intelligence under the CIA, situated in Langley, Virginia. The source of the published archive has been circulating among former U.S. government hackers and contractors in an unauthorized manner. The explanation for the source to give the document to the public is to spark a public debate about the “security, creation, use, proliferation and democratic control of cyberweapons,” according to the Wikileaks report.
“The technology is designed to be unaccountable, it’s designed to be untraceable, it’s designed to hide itself… It’s designed to throw off people looking to see where there are fingerprints that might demonstrate who authored that technology,” stated Julian Assange, the editor-in-chief of Wikileaks.
One of the biggest technology companies on the market today has also been implicated in the released files. According to the information the Samsung smart televisions can be used as bugs even when they are turned off. Assange also explains the readiness to fake television that is presumably is turned off, or the “Fake Off” mode, so that it can monitor targets. There is involvement of the MI5, the British Security Service, in that matter where its role was to provide the CIA with “sanitized source code … with comms and encryption removed,” according to the document report.
“The role of MI5, the domestic intelligence service, is mainly to track terrorists and foreign intelligence agencies and monitoring along the lines revealed in the CIA documents would require a warrant,” reported The Guardian.
The leaked files also reveal that CIA’s hackers operating out of the Frankfurt consulate are given diplomatic passports (also called “black passports”) along with US State Department cover. According to Wikileaks this consulate operates as a covert base for hackers covering Europe, the Middle East, and Africa.
Another set of documents provide information of the CIA Engineering Development Group (EDG) which had the task of creating a “global covert hacking program.” It developed ways to gather information about geolocation, audio, and text communications from phones. According to the leaks the CIA created malware and trojan viruses to covertly take on computers, with the report further saying that Apple’s iOS operating system, Google’s Android phones, Telegram, WhatsApp and Microsoft Windows programs have been targeted.
This is not the first time government surveillance has been brought up as a discussed topic by the global media. In June, 2013 Edward Snowden leaked a number of classified document from the NSA (the National Security Agency) that revealed how the U.S. government collected metadata from its citizens without them knowing which sparked a debate that continues till this date of whether this is constitutional or not. Since then there has been an ongoing debate on government surveillance and the extent of the powers of security agencies. In light of that in February an idea of a Digital Geneva Convention has been proposed by Brad Smith, the president of Microsoft, recently promoted by Julian Assange during a Vault 7 video stream.
This article was prepared by Ralitsa Penkova from AUBG Political Science Club.