How The CIA Turned An American Pastime Into A Global Spying Apparatus

[Shutterstock - gmstockstudio]

Daily Caller News Foundation logo
Eric Lieberman Managing Editor
Font Size:

WikiLeaks, the anti-secrecy non-profit that publishes classified information, released a trove of top secret information Tuesday, including the methods the Central Intelligence Agency used to hack into people’s televisions and other electronics.

In a technique called “Weeping Angel,” the CIA’s Embedded Devices Branch (EDB) would allegedly infest smart TVs and transform them into surreptitious microphones, recording people’s conversations with no detection.

WikiLeaks published the steps the CIA reportedly takes to infiltrate someone’s smart (internet-connected) TV.

Weeping Angel places targeted TVs in “Fake-Off” mode, which gives the owner the false belief that the TV is off when it is actually on.

Once in “Fake-Off” mode, the TV is essentially operating as a bug by recording conversations in the room and then transmitting the communications over the internet to a secret CIA server. (RELATED: The Internet Has Officially Become A Domain Of Warfare)

But it isn’t just the CIA that is accused of engaging in the invasive surveillance practice; the U.K.’s MI5/BTSS, which is also tasked with counter-intelligence and national security protocol, collaborated with the CIA on this initiative, according to WikiLeaks.

Published engineering notes from a joint workshop between the CIA and the MI5 reveal further tips for maintaining covert spying operations. The two security agencies suggest suppressing the LEDs that light up the TVs to improve the look of “Fake-Off” mode.

They also had a “ToDo” list outlining future priorities such as figuring out a way to “turn on or leave WiFi turned on in Fake-Off mode” and record with video.

“Samsung offers remote support – is this an area of functionality to investigate?” the notes read, likely referring to the agency’s interest in acquiring as many means of surveillance as possible. (RELATED: Microsoft’s President Worries The Company May End Up At The Center Of The Next War)

The CIA’s Mobile Devices Branch (MDB) is also accused of hacking or at least developing the remote surveillance capabilities for other machines, like vehicles and phones.

The MDB allegedly researched into the prospect of hacking cars with autonomous functionality, a technology that so many companies are racing to develop.

For smart phones, the CIA would apparently infect the devices and instruct it to send the CIA the user or owner’s “geolocation, audio and text communications as well as covertly activate the phone’s camera and microphone,” according to WikiLeaks.

The EDB and MDB are just two of the several sub-organizations in the long chain of command at the CIA. Some of the files WikiLeaks acquired are dated 2014, and the branches are likely to be utilized and expanded upon in the coming years, since smart devices are growing rapidly in availability and use. (RELATED: Someone Used Hacked Vending Machines To Hold A University’s Internet Hostage)

Follow Eric on Twitter

Send tips to

All content created by the Daily Caller News Foundation, an independent and nonpartisan newswire service, is available without charge to any legitimate news publisher that can provide a large audience. All republished articles must include our logo, our reporter’s byline and their DCNF affiliation. For any questions about our guidelines or partnering with us, please contact