CIA hacking into smart TVs, iPhones, Android devices: Wikileaks

April 12, 2017



If you have switched off the TV set and begun a confidential discussion in your drawing room, beware as the TV set may be spying on you -- courtesy the US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA).

In a new set of leaked documents, global whistleblower agency Wikileaks has claimed that CIA has developed new malware and hacking tools that can even hack into your TV.

Not just TVs, the CIA's Mobile Devices Branch (MDB) has developed numerous attacks to remotely hack and control popular smartphones like iPhones and Android-based devices.

The tools are built by EDG (Engineering Development Group), a software development group within CCI (Centre for Cyber Intelligence), a department belonging to the CIA's DDI (Directorate for Digital Innovation).

"Weeping Angel", developed by the CIA's Embedded Devices Branch (EDB), which infests smart TVs, transforming them into covert microphones, is one such malware.

One such attack against Samsung smart TVs was developed in cooperation with the United Kingdom's MI5/BTSS, Wikileaks claimed.

After infestation, "Weeping Angel" places the target TV in a 'Fake-Off' mode, so that the owner falsely believes the TV is off when it is on.

In the 'Fake-Off' mode, the TV operates as a bug, recording conversations in the room and sending them over the internet to a covert CIA server.

On the other hand, infected phones can be instructed to send the CIA the user's geolocation, audio and text communications as well as covertly activate the phone's camera and microphone.

Despite iPhone's minority share (14.5 per cent) of the global smart phone market in 2016, a specialised unit in the CIA's Mobile Development Branch produces malware to infest, control and exfiltrate data from iPhones and other Apple products running iOS, such as iPads.

"The disproportionate focus on iOS may be explained by the popularity of the iPhone among social, political, diplomatic and business elites," WikiLeaks said.

A similar unit targets Google's Android which is used to run the majority of the world's smart phones (85 per cent), including Samsung, HTC and Sony.

The new techniques permit the CIA to bypass the encryption of WhatsApp, Signal, Telegram, Wiebo, Confide and Cloackman by hacking the "smart" phones that they run on and collecting audio and message traffic before encryption is applied.

The CIA also runs a very substantial effort to infect and control Microsoft Windows users with its malware.

The new documents are part of "Vault 7", a substantial collection of material about CIA activities obtained by WikiLeaks which is the largest intelligence publication in history.

"As of October 2014, the CIA was also looking at infecting the vehicle control systems used by modern cars and trucks. The purpose of such control is not specified, but it would permit the CIA to engage in nearly undetectable assassinations," the documents claimed.

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