Wikileaks Vault 7: Why India should be worried about CIA’s hacking tools on the loose

Jayadevan PK March 7, 2017 2 min

Wikileaks has just released a massive trove of documents that exposes the US Central Intelligence Agency’s capabilities to hack into practically every popular device that you can think of — Samsung Smart TVs? Covered. iPhones? Yes boss. Android phones? Already done.

The leak, code-named Vault 7, is a damning indictment of America’s overreaching surveillance programs and the race to accumulate cyber weaponry, which puts other countries and individuals at grave risk.

According to Wikileaks, the intelligence agency had produced more than a thousand hacking systems, trojans, viruses, and other “weaponized” malware by the end of 2016.

Worst yet, they lost control of these weapons, which have been doing the rounds among US government hackers and contractors in an “unauthorized manner.”

If the cyber arsenal is indeed out in the wild, the CIA has turned the global cyber threat level knob all the way up to “NOBODY IS SAFE”. It not only threatens the US but also other countries like India that have a fast growing digital infrastructure but only a nascent cyber defense ecosystem.

“Once a single cyber ‘weapon’ is ‘loose’ it can spread around the world in seconds, to be used by rival states, cyber mafia and teenage hackers alike,” Wikileaks said in its statement.

Here are some of the scariest exploits that the CIA allegedly possesses:

Weeping angel

One of the groups inside the CIA has developed what is called the “Weeping Angel.” It can attack smart televisions and transform them into covert microphones in one Orwellian sweep. The attack was mostly targeted at Samsung Smart Televisions.

Cars & trucks

Vehicle makers these days call their cars computing platforms on wheels with millions of lines of code. The intelligence agency has been working on infecting vehicle control systems on these devices.

iPhones & Android phones

There’s a department for that too. The intelligence agency’s mobile devices branch has developed many attacks to hack popular smartphones, according to Vault 7. Hacked phones can be very effective spying devices with cameras, microphones and geo location sensors. The agency has an arsenal of exploits for iPhones, Android phones and popular brands like Samsung, HTC and Sony and also techniques that help bypass encryption provided by WhatsApp, Signal, Telegram and other instant messaging services.

Operating systems

Well the agency has not forgotten good old desktop operating systems. This includes Windows, OS X and Linux. Exploits with ominous names like Hammer Drill, Assasin and Medusa can wreak havoc at the behest of the agency.

PS: We’re probably using “allegedly” in vain here. Former NSA contractor Edward Snowden who blew the whistle on the US surveillance program Tweeted earlier today that it looks legit. “Still working through the publication but what @Wikileaks has here is genuinely a big deal. Looks authentic,” said Snowden.