CIA blasts WikiLeaks for publishing secret documents

March 9, 2017

The Central Intelligence Agency on Wednesday accused WikiLeaks of endangering Americans, helping US rivals and hampering the fight against terror threats by releasing what the anti-secrecy site claimed was a trove of CIA hacking tools.

A CIA spokeswoman would not confirm the authenticity of the materials published by WikiLeaks, which said they were leaked from the spy agency's hacking operations.

Nevertheless, said spokeswoman Heather Fritz Horniak, "The American public should be deeply troubled by any WikiLeaks disclosure designed to damage the intelligence community's ability to protect America against terrorists and other adversaries."

"Such disclosures not only jeopardize US personnel and operations, but also equip our adversaries with tools and information to do us harm," she said.

Horniak defended the CIA's cyber operations, which the WikiLeaks materials showed focused heavily on breaking into personal electronics using a wide range of malware systems.

"It is CIA's job to be innovative, cutting-edge, and the first line of defense in protecting this country from enemies abroad," she said.

Massive leak

On Tuesday, WikiLeaks published nearly 9,000 documents it said were part of a huge trove leaked from the CIA, describing it as the largest-ever publication of secret intelligence materials.

"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.

The documents showed that CIA hackers can turn a TV into a listening device, bypass popular encryption apps, and possibly control one's car.

Most experts believe the materials to be genuine, and US media said Wednesday that the Federal Bureau of Investigation is opening a criminal probe into the leak.

The source of the materials remained unclear. The investigation could focus on whether the CIA was sloppy in its controls, or, as The Washington Post reported, it could be "a major mole hunt" for a malicious leaker or turncoat inside the agency.

WikiLeaks itself said the documents, hacking tools and code came from an archive that had circulated among US government hackers and private contractors.

An investigation would come as the CIA is already enmeshed in a politically-charged probe into Russia's alleged interference in the US election last year in support of President Donald Trump's campaign.

WikiLeaks, which has stunned the US government with a series of publications of top secret political, diplomatic and intelligence materials, said the publication Tuesday was only the first of a series of releases of CIA hacking materials.

That raised concerns that the site could release the actual hacking tools it obtained along with the documents. Experts worry those could fall into the hands of anyone, including US enemies and criminals.

Tech sector scrambles for fixes

The WikiLeaks documents detailed the CIA's practice of exploiting vulnerabilities in hardware and software, without ever informing producers of them.

The CIA allegedly found ways to hack into personal electronics from leading companies like Apple and Samsung, Android phones, popular Microsoft software, and crucial routers from major manufacturers.

The documents suggest it can also infiltrate smartphones in a way that allows it to get around popular messaging encryption apps.

The tech sector was scrambling to understand how their products were at risk.

"While our initial analysis indicates that many of the issues leaked today were already patched in the latest iOS, we will continue work to rapidly address any identified vulnerabilities," Apple said in an emailed statement.

"We're confident that security updates and protections in both Chrome and Android already shield users from many of these alleged vulnerabilities," Google director of information security and privacy Heather Adkins said in a released statement.

"Our analysis is ongoing and we will implement any further necessary protections."

Samsung and Microsoft both said they were "looking into" what WikiLeaks revealed.

- Encryption apps safe-

Joseph Hall, a technologist with the Center for Democracy and Technology, a digital rights organization, said the documents raise questions about the US government's pledge last year to disclose vulnerabilities to technology firms.

That pledge means "security flaws should get back to the companies so they can get fixed, and not languish for years," he said.

The American Civil Liberties Union commented in a tweet: "When the govt finds software security holes, it should help fix them, not hoard them and leave everyone vulnerable."

Companies that make encryption programs and apps targeted by the CIA said the revelations show the agency has not been able to break their software.

Open Whisper Systems, which developed the technology for the Signal encryption app, said the CIA documents showed that Signal works.

"None of the exploits are in Signal or break Signal Protocol encryption," the group said in a tweet.

"The existence of these hacking tools is a testimonial to the strength of the encryption," said Steve Bellovin, a Columbia University computer science researcher, in a blog post.

Explore further: Tech sector scrambles after CIA device-hacking allegations

Related Stories

WikiLeaks CIA files: Are they real and are they a risk?

March 8, 2017

WikiLeaks has published thousands of documents that the anti-secrecy organization said were classified files revealing scores of secrets about CIA hacking tools used to break into targeted computers, cellphones and even smart ...

WikiLeaks reveals CIA trove alleging wide-scale hacking

March 7, 2017

WikiLeaks published thousands of documents Tuesday described as secret files about CIA hacking tools the government employs to break into users' computers, mobile phones and even smart TVs from companies like Apple, Google, ...

Recommended for you

Solid-state catalysis: Fluctuations clear the way

February 18, 2019

The use of efficient catalytic agents is what makes many technical procedures feasible in the first place. Indeed, synthesis of more than 80 percent of the products generated in the chemical industry requires the input of ...

Engineered metasurfaces reflect waves in unusual directions

February 18, 2019

In our daily lives, we can find many examples of manipulation of reflected waves, such as mirrors, or reflective surfaces for sound that improve auditorium acoustics. When a wave impinges on a reflective surface with a certain ...

Design principles for peroxidase-mimicking nanozymes

February 18, 2019

Nanozymes, enzyme-like catalytic nanomaterials, are considered to be the next generation of enzyme mimics because they not only overcome natural enzymes' intrinsic limitations, but also possess unique properties in comparison ...

Sound waves let quantum systems 'talk' to one another

February 18, 2019

Researchers at the University of Chicago and Argonne National Laboratory have invented an innovative way for different types of quantum technology to "talk" to each other using sound. The study, published Feb. 11 in Nature ...

4 comments

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

gkam
1 / 5 (4) Mar 14, 2017
Are they incapable of keeping their classified material secure?

Time for a re-organization.
gkam
1 / 5 (4) Mar 14, 2017
See this?

"Why Our Nuclear Weapons Can Be Hacked"

https://www.nytim...ed.html?

It is PAST time for a re-organization
TheGhostofOtto1923
3.7 / 5 (3) Mar 14, 2017
"The Central Intelligence Agency on Wednesday accused WikiLeaks of endangering Americans, helping US rivals and hampering the fight against terror threats by releasing what the anti-secrecy site claimed was a trove of CIA hacking tools."

-Nice show. This stuff was all obsolete or soon to be made obsolete by quantum computing. The only good reason to update is necessity and what better necessity than the enemy stealing your stuff?
gkam
1 / 5 (4) Mar 14, 2017
Hmmmmm, . . . the people in office who will be responsible for protecting us are now suspected of being stooges of Putin.

Does not inspire confidence.

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.