CIA has targeted everyday gadgets for snooping: WikiLeaks documents
NEW YORK: Maybe the CIA is spying on you through your television set after all.
Documents released by WikiLeaksallege a CIA surveillance program that targets everyday gadgets ranging from smart TVs to smartphones to cars. Such snooping, WikiLeaks said, could turn some of these devices into recorders of everyday conversations — and could also circumvent data-scrambling encryption on communications apps such as Facebook's WhatsApp.
WikiLeaks is, for now, withholding details on the specific hacks used "until a consensus emerges" on the nature of the CIA's program and how the methods should be "analyzed, disarmed and published." But WikiLeaks — a nonprofit that routinely publishes confidential documents, frequently from government sources — claims that the data and documents it obtained reveal a broad program to bypass security measures on everyday products.
MORE PRIVACY CLASHES
If true, the disclosure could spark new privacy tensions between the government and the technology industry. Relations have been fraught since 2013, when former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden disclosed secret NSA surveillance of phone and digital communications.
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. Common practice calls for government agencies to disclose such flaws to companies privately, so that they could fix them.
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."
A BIG YAWN TO SOME
Not everyone is worried, though.
Alan Paller, director of research for the cybersecurity training outfit SANS Institute, said the case boils down to "spies who use their tools to do what they are paid to do." He said criminals already have similar tools — and he's more worried about that