WikiLeaks has published what it says is the largest leak of secret CIA documents in history. The thousands of documents, dubbed “Vault 7,” describe CIA programs and tools that are capable of hacking into both Apple and Android cellphones. By hacking into entire phones, the CIA is then reportedly able to bypass encrypted messenger programs such as Signal, Telegram and WhatsApp, although—contrary to many news reports—the documents do not show the CIA has developed tools to hack these encrypted services themselves. The documents also outline a CIA and British intelligence program called “Weeping Angel,” through which the spy agency can hack into a Samsung smart television and turn it into a surveillance device that records audio conversations, even when it appears to be off. Other documents describe ways to hack into Skype, Wi-Fi networks, PDFs and commercial antivirus programs. The leak also shows the CIA has reportedly looked for ways to hack into cars and trucks, which WikiLeaks said “would permit the CIA to engage in nearly undetectable assassinations.”
Other documents outline how the CIA has used the U.S. Consulate in Frankfurt, Germany, as a covert base to spy on Europe, the Middle East and Africa. Monday’s release totals 7,818 web pages and 943 attachments, which WikiLeaks says comes from the CIA’s Center for Cyber Intelligence in Langley, Virginia. Some of the material was redacted by WikiLeaks to avoid releasing the actual computer code used in the programs.
WikiLeaks says Monday’s release is only the first batch of many more secret CIA documents. The CIA has refused to comment on the authenticity of the documents. But at least one anonymous government official told The New York Times the documents were real, while another a former intelligence officer told the Times the code names used in the documents appeared to be accurate. WikiLeaks did not reveal the source of the leak, but did say the source “wishes to initiate a public debate about the security, creation, use, proliferation and democratic control of cyberweapons.”
On Twitter, Edward Snowden said, “The CIA reports show the [U.S. Government] developing vulnerabilities in US products, then intentionally keeping the holes open. Reckless beyond words.”