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WikiLeaks Exposes Alleged CIA Cyber Spying | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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The lobby of the CIA Headquarters Building in McLean, Virginia, August 14, 2008. REUTERS/Larry Downing

A trove of documents released by WikiLeaks alleges a CIA surveillance program that targets everyday gadgets ranging from smart TVs to smartphones to cars.

According to WikiLeaks, such snooping 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.

The group — a nonprofit that routinely publishes confidential documents, frequently from government sources — posted nearly 9,000 documents it said were leaked from the CIA, in what it described as the largest-ever publication of secret intelligence materials.

WikiLeaks claimed that the CIA documents, hacking tools and code representing “the majority of its hacking arsenal” were leaked within the cyber security community — and that it had received, and released, a part of them.

It 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 said: “This extraordinary collection, which amounts to more than several hundred million lines of code, gives its possessor the entire hacking capacity of the CIA,” it said.

Neither the CIA nor the White House would say if the documents were genuine.

“We do not comment on the authenticity or content of purported intelligence documents,” said spokesman Jonathan Liu in an email.

White House spokesman Sean Spicer declined to comment, saying “That’s something that has not been fully evaluated.”

The archive shows the CIA exploiting weaknesses it discovers in hardware and software systems, including those made by US companies — without letting anyone know about the flaws in question.

Documents show the CIA has produced more than 1,000 malware systems and other software that can infiltrate and take control of personal electronics, WikiLeaks noted.

These hacking tools have targeted iPhones, Android systems such as the personal phone reportedly still used by President Donald Trump, popular Microsoft software, and Samsung smart TVs, which can be transformed into covert microphones, according to WikiLeaks.

The agency has also examined hacking into the electronic control systems on cars and trucks, potentially enabling it to control them remotely.

By infecting and effectively taking over the software of smartphones, WikiLeaks said, the CIA can get around the encryption technologies of popular apps like WhatsApp, Signal, Telegram, Weibo, and Confide by collecting communications before they are encrypted.

Microsoft said it was aware of the reports and was looking into them.

Apple said an initial analysis showed many of the security gaps brought up in the leaked documents were already patched in the latest iOS. “We will continue work to rapidly address any identified vulnerabilities,” it said.

In a statement, General Motors said it would be premature to comment on the documents, including its authenticity. But GM added that it knew of no injuries or death resulting from the hacking of a vehicle.