WATCHING YOU: CIA Uses TVs, Smartphones, Cars to Spy.

Today, Wikileaks released a treasure trove of documents detailing the full extent of the Central Intelligence Agency’s cyber-espionage capabilities. The official press release summarizing the findings is here.

According to the press release, the CIA has developed covert hacks into a litany of everyday devices used by regular people, including but not limited to “Apple’s iPhone, Google’s Android and Microsoft’s Windows and even Samsung TVs, which are turned into covert microphones.”

Furthermore, in an announcement sure to rattle technology companies who promised secrecy, messaging services like Whatsapp, Signal, and Telegram have been compromised. The CIA has developed hacking methods which get around the promised encryption and read the audio / text data anyway.

In what may be the most disconcerting of all revelations in terms of personal privacy, certain documents outline techniques developed by the CIA’s Embedded Devices Branch which allow them to remotely access cameras and microphones on “smart” devices like phones, TVs, and computers. Amazingly, some of these techniques even allow them to access devices while they are seemingly turned off, exploiting security flaws which allow them to power on microphones and cameras while the device itself appears to be totally powered down.

If that weren’t enough, there’s yet another element to this witch’s brew. As ZeroHedge describes:

Another profound revelation is that the CIA can engage in “false flag” cyberattacks which portray Russia as the assailant. Discussing the CIA’s Remote Devices Branch’s UMBRAGE group, Wikileaks’ source notes that it “collects and maintains a substantial library of attack techniques ‘stolen’ from malware produced in other states including the Russian Federation.

“With UMBRAGE and related projects the CIA cannot only increase its total number of attack types but also misdirect attribution by leaving behind the “fingerprints” of the groups that the attack techniques were stolen from. UMBRAGE components cover keyloggers, password collection, webcam capture, data destruction, persistence, privilege escalation, stealth, anti-virus (PSP) avoidance and survey techniques.”

As Kim Dotcom summarizes this finding, “CIA uses techniques to make cyber attacks look like they originated from enemy state. It turns DNC/Russia hack allegation by CIA into a JOKE

The CIA has another Snowden in it’s midst. But Wikileaks has kept the source a secret. This must be driving top CIA bosses insane. Somewhere within the agency, they have a whistleblower. Government bureaucrats, especially spooks, hate almost nothing else as much as they hate whistleblowers.

LEAKS

The government is being pummeled by whistleblowers: Leaks from the White House, from government agencies, from political media, and now from the intelligence agencies. Secrecy is becoming more difficult to maintain.

I have no problem with this. I love it. I wants leaks on leaks on leaks. I want government officials and people closely associated with the government to live in permanent, paralyzing fear of being secretly recorded and outed by whistleblowers and undercover provacateurs.

My only caveat is information that directly influences national security; as in, “revealing this information will probably lead to the deaths of many people.” For instance, I would not reveal the names and locations of CIA-paid foreign agents in Muslim countries who are working against the local government. I would reveal the fact that the CIA employs paid agents in these countries. I would not reveal precise operations that directly implicate specific people, but I would reveal generalized operations on the large scale. Americans deserve to know where their money is going. Actually, let me rephrase that: they have a responsibility to know where their money if going.

But American meddling in the affairs and wars of other nations has a direct impact on our national security. Our national security is at risk because the Pentagon and CIA cannot resist fiddling with the affairs of other countries, which comes back to haunt us. I would happily expose this meddling. The less we meddle in the affairs of other nations, the less we become a target by angry foreigners.

Leaks punish the government for being dishonest. They undermine public faith in government institutions, which is a good thing. I was all in favor of leaks during Obama’s presidency, and I am in favor of them during Trump’s presidency. I want the government, up to and including the White House, to live in fear of leakers in their midst.

CONCLUSION

Leaks are good for liberty. This is why the government hates them. Liberty is not good for government, because it restricts their actions and their ability to take money from us. Leaks whittle away at public confidence in government and make it more difficult for the government to get our full cooperation.

People don’t show a lot of interest in what the federal bureaucracies are doing until they get in their way. But leaks help speed up this process. The invisible bureaucrats in these organizations become a lot less invisible when whistleblowers with smartphones in their pockets lurk around every corner.

On a practical note, the leak should drive this lesson home: any electronics you own that are connected to the Internet may be vulnerable. That Samsung Smart TV with the webcam in your living room? The techniques are out there for hackers to log in and record you. Maybe not CIA spooks, but simply perverts looking for some naked booty.

My recommendation? Don’t buy TV’s with webcams or microphones if you don’t need them. If you do own such a TV, then cover these things when not in use; even a strip of tape will do. For a computer, do not leave your microphone or webcam plugged when not being used.

As for smartphones, there is not much you can do. But considering they spend most of the time in your pocket, the camera is not as much of a threat. If you’re concerned about people listening-in, then just make sure the phone is out of earshot before talking about your crimes. …er, sensitive matters.

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