WikiLeaks on Tuesday released thousands of documents that it said revealed the secret tools the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) has used to hack people’s smartphones, computer operating systems and even smart TVs.
A statement from the anti-secrecy organization said that the 8,761 documents were obtained from “an isolated, high-security network” situated inside the CIA’s hacking division, the Center for Cyber Intelligence, in Langley, Virgina. “Code-named ‘Vault 7’ by WikiLeaks, it is the largest ever publication of confidential documents on the agency,” the statement said, noting the leaks detailed “the scope and direction of the CIA’s global covert hacking program.”
WikiLeaks said the leaked documents “have been circulated among former U.S. government hackers and contractors in an unauthorized manner”, one of whom provided them to WikiLeaks. By the end of 2016, it said, the CIA’s Center for Cyber Intelligence had over 5,000 people and had produced more than hacking systems, trojans, viruses, and other “weaponized” malware.
These hacking programs can target “a wide range of U.S. and European company products, include Apple’s iPhone, Google’s Android and Microsoft’s Windows (operating system) and even Samsung TVs, which are turned into covert microphones.” “Such is the scale of the CIA’s undertaking that by 2016, its hackers had utilized more code than that used to run Facebook,” the WikiLeaks statement said. “The CIA had created, in effect, its ‘own NSA’ (National Security Agency) with even less accountability and without publicly answering the question as to whether such a massive budgetary spend on duplicating the capacities of a rival agency could be justified.”
U.S. media quoted current and former U.S. officials as saying that details contained in the documents suggest that they are legitimate. Commenting on the documents, WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange said that “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,” he added.