WikiLeaks: CIA has tools to break into phones, Internet TVs

WASHINGTON • WikiLeaks has released thousands of documents that it said described sophisticated software tools used by the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) to break into smartphones, computers and even Internet-connected TVs.

If the documents are authentic, as appeared likely at first review, the release will be the latest coup for the anti-secrecy organisation and a serious blow to the CIA, which maintains its own hacking capabilities to be used for espionage.

The initial release yesterday, which WikiLeaks said was only the first part of the collection, included 7,818 webpages with 943 attachments. The entire archive of material consists of several hundred million lines of computer code, it said.

Among other disclosures that, if confirmed, will rock the tech world: the WikiLeaks release said the CIA and allied intelligence services had managed to bypass encryption on popular phone and messaging services such as Signal, WhatsApp and Telegram.

According to the statement from WikiLeaks, government hackers can penetrate Android phones and collect "audio and message traffic before encryption is applied".

The source of the documents was not named. WikiLeaks said the documents, which it called Vault 7, had been "circulated among former US government hackers and contractors in an unauthorised manner, one of whom has provided WikiLeaks with portions of the archive".

WikiLeaks said the source, in a statement, set out policy questions that "urgently need to be debated in public, including whether the CIA's hacking capabilities exceed its mandated powers and the problem of public oversight of the agency".

Said CIA spokesman Dean Boyd: "We do not comment on the authenticity or content of purported intelligence documents."


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 08, 2017, with the headline 'WikiLeaks: CIA has tools to break into phones, Internet TVs'. Print Edition | Subscribe