The CIA finds itself in the midst of a Wikileaks expose, with 8,761 documents showing how the premier US intelligence agency uses tools to breaks into apps, phones and other devices. However, more than CIA, it seems this expose will hit the tech industry hard. Because, some of the details in the leaks seems to suggest there are vulnerabilities in both iOS and Android, the top operating systems for communication devices these days.
While CIA hackers tapped into smartphones and computers, even some of the apps thought to be secure, they used programme called Weeping Angel to monitor those using the Samsung F8000 smart television even though they appeared to be power off. Suddenly, all those people who keep a piece of tape to cover their computer cameras don’t appear all that stupid.
Edward Snowden has a point when he says these leaks actually underline the vulnerabilities in Android and iOS and not in apps in WhatsApp and Signal. How else could the CIA hack into a smartphone television that is not even on.
In fact, he suggests the security agencies were paying to keep some software unsafe.
Scarily, WikiLieaks claims that the documents show how CIA’s Mobile Development Branch creates malware to infest iOS and Android devices. It claims the CIA “arsenal” has “numerous local and remote “zero days” developed by CIA or obtained from GCHQ, NSA, FBI or purchased from cyber arms contractors such as Baitshop”. Though Apple has just 14.5 per cent share of the global smartphone market, the CIA has a disproportionate interest in its devices are they are more popular among the political, diplomatic and business elite.
Now, these operating systems are no longer limited to smartphones or tablets, as everything from cars to refrigerators are becoming smart and use Android or iOS for this dose of intelligence. This is where the so-called ‘Fake Off’ mode in these Samsung smart television were apparently developed in collaboration with the British Intelligence agencies could be damaging for the entire smart-this-smart-that industry.
In the end, the leaks just suggest that it might not be a really smart thing to keep adding one smart device after the other to your portfolio, especially if you are one of those the security agencies might have any interest in. These days that could mean you are just a student with some outspoken views or a journalist who asks too many uncomfortable questions.