On Tuesday, Wikileaks published 8,761 documents revealing how the CIA hacks Samsung TVs, computers, phones and cars to spy on civilians all over the world. A CIA team created a new program capable of infecting the above-mentioned devices, turning them into microphones ready to collect information on their owners, even when the devices are apparently off.
Once the device is infected, the CIA can bypass the encryption on apps such as WhatsApp, Telegram, and Signal by using phones programmed with Google’s Android and IOS platforms to collect audio and message traffic before encryption is applied. Further, infected devices to the controlling agent the user’s current(geographic) location, audio and text communications as well as discreetly operate the phone’s camera and microphone.”
According to Wikileaks, each technique the CIA has created ‘forms a “fingerprint” that can be used by forensic investigators to attribute multiple different attacks to the same entity’.
A troubling piece of information is that, According to Wikileaks, the aforementioned cyber weapons were compromised and the tools are likely to be in the hands of criminals and foreign intelligence agencies.
As if that weren’t enough, the release also suggests that the U.S. consulate in Germany is in fact a secret American base. Apparently, most of the workers at the Consulate are undercover hackers that regularly collect information on Europeans, Africans, and Middle Easterners. It suggests that there could be many other secret hacking bases in unsuspected places worldwide.
A curious discovery from the disclosure is that the CIA had hidden its operations trying to appear as if they were Russian hackers.Moreover, when it has often been suggested that the Russian government interfered in the last election to help Trump win, this suggests that CIA agents might have fabricated part of that story.
Experts who have started to analyze Wikileaks revelations said they appeared legitimate. They added that the release was the biggest in the CIA’s history.
Wikileaks has a long history of publishing authentic documents that have been leaked from government agencies, corporations, and powerful individuals.
When asked, a CIA spokesperson said:
“We do not comment on the authenticity or content of purported intelligence documents.”
Wikileaks announced that this is the first in a series of documents to be published which will cover the CIA’s full suite of hacking tools.
“We need to know if the CIA lost control of its hacking tools, who may have those tools, and how do we now protect the privacy of Americans… The potential privacy concerns are mind-boggling,” he said.
With this disclosure, Wikileaks has exposed how vulnerable we all are. Snowden’s disclosure exposed that the CIA had the capability to monitor and record conversations on the Internet and by phone. It also exposed the collaboration between the CIA and the biggest phone and computing companies by sharing data to spy on civilians. However, yesterday’s disclosure goes beyond this collaboration; the CIA can now spy on anyone through a broad spectrum of electronic devices. This disclosure indicates that, in the current technological era, there are few options to prevent such an espionage, removing any sort of privacy from people’s lives.
Privacy is important because it allows us to think as we please without any external manipulation. Without it, no one can develop critical thinking mind, which is central to becoming the owner of their life. People are all at risk of falling into a “vegetative state” in which people will passively accept everything told by their governments. One wants to believe that this phase is still far away, but if these surveillance methods are not phased out soon, we will reach a point of no return.
It is a fact that there is already a wide spectrum of journalists and citizens who are influenced by third parties. The way they investigate; act, or use the Internet is determined by the fear of being under surveillance.
When critics thought that “1984” by George Orwell was just a fantasy novel, they were wrong. It is true that our society is not yet in the situation depicted therein, but no one can deny that there are many parallels and unless the CIA indefinitely suspends its surveillance programs, within a decade or two, everyone will be very tightly controlled by their government in all circumstances, even in those places without any electronic devices.
While we wait for the second part of the Wikileaks revelations, we should all think about what kind of world we want to build for future generations and start thinking about how to fight back to better protect their privacy.