WikiLeaks has released nearly 9,000 pages of files it says exposes a covert global hacking program operated by the CIA.
The document dump, which WikiLeaks is calling “Vault 7,” is the largest publication of documents stolen from the CIA, says the group, which was founded by Julian Assange.
The veracity of the documents has not been verified and it is not yet clear whether the release marks a major breach of the CIA.
According to an explainer released by WikiLeaks, the 8,761 documents had been maintained in a high-security network at CIA’s Center for Cyber Intelligence in Langley, Va. But the group says that the CIA “lost control” of the documents after they began circulating among a 5,000-person network of former U.S. government hackers and contractors. One of those individuals is WikiLeaks’ source, the group claims.
The documents, which include more than 70,000 redactions, show how CIA hackers use malware, trojan viruses and other tools to convert electronics, including phones and smart TVs, into covert microphones used for spying. The group also says there are documents showing that the CIA uses the U.S. consulate in Frankfurt as a covert hacker base for its European operations.
Among the most salacious revelations in the WikiLeaks release come from documents showing how CIA developed techniques to hack Samsung smart TVs with British intelligence services. The malware, called Weeping Angel, records audio while the target of the hack believes the TV is turned off.
One of the documents released on Tuesday purportedly shows that the CIA was working on a program as of Oct. 2014 that would infect the vehicle control systems of certain cars and trucks.
“The purpose of such control is not specified, but it would permit the CIA to engage in nearly undetectable assassinations,” WikiLeaks asserts.
The group also claims that the documents show that the CIA has developed techniques that allow it to bypass encryption used by secret text messaging programs like WhatsApp, Signal, and Confide.
In its explainer, WikiLeaks attempts to capitalize on the recent debate about whether President Obama spied on President Trump prior to the election. Trump made the unfounded claim on Twitter on Saturday.
The group claims that CIA malware can be used to “penetrate, infest and control” Android and iPhone software “that runs or has run presidential Twitter accounts.”
[dcquiz] Trump is well known for using Twitter to comment on the day’s news or make announcements about his administration.
Assange issued a rambling statement along with the release of the files.
“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 said.
“But the significance of ‘Year Zero’ goes well beyond the choice between cyberwar and cyberpeace. The disclosure is also exceptional from a political, legal and forensic perspective.”
It remains to be seen how the Trump administration will respond to the WikiLeaks dump. Trump praised the group during the campaign because it was leaking emails stolen from the Democratic National Committee and Hillary Clinton campaign.