Analysing CIA’s Vault 7 files released by WikiLeaks

Posted on March 9, 2017 12:00 am

Security services like CIA have long been undertaking surveillance operations on the citizens both within and outside of USA. Through rapid technology advances, the security apparatus have grown to an Orwellian scale as the latest releases of CIA documents by Wikileaks shows. The data is not necessarily been at the design of USA government but something the deep state’s bureaucracy is forthright in promoting.The international exchange of security information is a challenge to human rights of citizens, yet to be grappled with but as CIA data shows, there’s total disregard to such rights.I always hold a view that any idea that anyone apart from spies is in total control of government is a myth.Through technology and its innovative applications, the concept of privacy has been reframed to the point that anything a person does outside of the home or on a computer now is public domain, captured through any of the large array of assets that can be used for surveillance. Thats what purported eavesdropping of Samsung Tv by CIA proves.Codenames in the documents like weeping Angel, Fine Dining, Magical Mutt and RoidRage are said to be among many of the powerful tools the CIA has been using to spy on phones, tablets, smart Tvs etc. WikiLeaks, which released the documents, has called it the largest release of confidential CIA intelligence documents ever. Unlike the leaks from Edward Snowden, currently in exile in Russia, which he said he did to protect privacy, internet freedom and basic liberties was by far much more detailed compared to Wikileaks cache which doesn’t unearth anything beyond the tools and procedures used by the CIA. Although no one like being spied on, this revelation by Wikileaks is in my view meant to damage the CIA.

I always wonder what business does WikiLeaks has to be interested in nonsensical public debates over whether spooks at CIA or GCHQ have hacking capabilities that exceed their mandated powers. If human beings don’t have limit on what they can do to protect themselves, what of organisations like CIA whose structures are an envy of deep state within and outside US?According to Wikileaks, each of the exploits uses a different method to hack target devices. Some projects, such as Fine Dining, require the operator to have physical access to a computer. This tool from the CIA’s Operational Support Branch allows the user to insert a USB stick that downloads information from Windows computers, while giving the appearance of doing something else like running a virus scan.A checklist for case officers asks whether operators will be watched while the collection is occurring, how much time they will have, and what information they want.Just like a century ago, countries always encourage citizens to inform on other citizens they suspect of breaking the law.However, that is basic stuff compared to the private data in retail, banking, travel, health and insurance and likes that are linked to intelligence collected by government which makes the value of data becomes massively enriched. Data collected by private organisations is utilised by security services and thats why I wasn’t surprised to see Apple’s software was a big target too. The CIA could secretly activate microphones and cameras, steal text messages and reveal locations. Wikileaks documents show is operators would try to remotely break into the phones using an exploit called EVE through the internet browser. They then use another exploit to break out of the sandbox, a security measure designed to keep the internet browser and core operating system separate although other exploits require physical access to the phone.Documents i read on Wikileaks show the most recent hacks in this cache of documents only detail exploits up to iOS version 9.2 which was released on December 8, 2015.

CIA is said to bypass the encryption on popular messaging apps such as WhatsApp, Telegram and Signal. It did that by hacking phones that use Google’s Android platform to collect audio and message traffic before encryption is applied. Also, it targeted gadgets such as smartphones as part of a surveillance program and worked with foreign intelligence officials to turn microphones in televisions into listening devices via a program called Weeping Angel, sending the audio to a covert server.The revelations about CIA eavesdropping on phone conversations, emails, and other electronic communications has been astounding to many. Meta-data collection systems are highly likely to be also operating all over the world due to the close relationship between the CIA and local intelligence community.However this doesn’t appear to be a new occurrence as the issue of Frankfurt base in Germany has been framed to look like. A reliable source working within a telephone company sometimes back told me when manual exchanges were operating confirmed agencies like CIA and other intelligence agencies had secret rooms within the exchanges to run phone tapping operations within and outside USA. Looking at 2016 data requests, it is clear security agencies appetite for user information from internet companies are very active in the western world just like in developing countries when it comes to surveillance of its own citizens. What I saw from the documents though is that exploits used by CIA for such work were bought and shared among intelligence agencies within the US and UK. But they also appear to show some exploits were bought from private companies rather than developed in house. For example Weeping Angel put some Samsung Smart TVs into a fake-off mode that dimmed the LED lights and covertly recorded audio from the TV.CIA documents show that recent firmware updates from Samsung did away the current USB installation method which suggests that an operative had to have physical access to the TV set to install the malware. The notes also show that hackers flagged Samsung’s remote support system as a possible area of functionality to investigate. When i wrote that your smartphone is your spy, a friend of mine emailed me expressing worry why she will throw away her cherished device. The fact is, those of us who have used or use smart devices like phones, tablets etc have given away a lot of privacy rights through downloading apps and those who have location services activated on, their phone knows where you work, live, hangout and play without entering any information. It simply can tell everything about the owner.Even when we don’t make a call, the phone can tell our location by pinging to the nearest phone tower.Many countries have data retention laws which mean phone and internet companies have to save this information for undisclosed number of years and in my view, nothing is deleted. It will remain intact until when deep state mafias like CIA feel its of no value, and that could be a century from now.

Contador Harrison