You Can Tell Whether the CIA Has Hacked Your TV

Experts say WikiLeaks files 'sinister,' but not surprising
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Mar 8, 2017 5:03 AM CST
Updated Mar 8, 2017 6:20 AM CST
WikiLeaks CIA Files 'Sinister' But Not Surprising
A LeEco uMax85 television is displayed at an event in San Francisco.   (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu)

It's being called the CIA's "Snowden moment"—and it reveals secrets that paranoid time-travelers from the 1950s would find completely unsurprising, including suggestions that the agency has been spying on people through their TVs. The CIA is scrambling to deal with the fallout from WikiLeaks' release Tuesday of a vast trove of data on the agency's hacking tools. A former senior intelligence official tells the Washington Post that the leak, which experts believe is genuine, could "cause grave if not irreparable damage to the ability of our intelligence agencies to conduct our mission." A roundup of coverage:

  • One hack, code-named Weeping Angel, allows spies to capture audio and possibly video from Samsung smart TVs that appear to be turned off. Wired has a guide to telling whether your TV has been hacked.
  • PC World reports that the WikiLeaks release included snippets of code that antivirus vendors can now use to determine whether hacking attempts originated at the CIA.

  • MIT Technology Review describes the leaked information, including news that the CIA has found vulnerabilities in iOS and Android, as "sinister" but not "particularly Earth-shattering" from a technological point of view.
  • Business Insider examines some of WikiLeaks' claims and finds that there's no evidence that the CIA was able to crack the encryption of apps like Signal and WhatsApp.
  • Ben Wizner, director of the ACLU's Speech, Privacy, and Technology Project, tells the New York Times he's disturbed by signs that the government knew about vulnerabilities in electronic devices and kept them quiet to make spying easier. "Those vulnerabilities will be exploited not just by our security agencies, but by hackers and governments around the world," Wizner says. "Patching security holes immediately, not stockpiling them, is the best way to make everyone's digital life safer."
  • Forbes spoke to security experts from several companies about the leak. They said the information about the CIA's technological capabilities is unsurprising, but that it should serve as a reminder to people that they cannot fully trust the security of their devices. "People need to wake up to the fact that they need to take responsibility for maintaining the privacy of their information and make no assumptions," says Ajay Arora, CEO of Vera. "At the end of the day, no one has your best interests in mind but you—people can't even trust their own government anymore. This is the tragic new normal we have to all unfortunately accept."
  • Companies including Google, Samsung, and WhatsApp declined to comment, the Washington Post reports. Apple released a statement saying the issues disclosed in the leak were patched in a recent update and that they "always urge customers to download the latest iOS to make sure they have the most recent security update."
  • "Imagine a world where the actual CIA spends its time figuring out how to spy on you through your TV. That's today," tweeted Edward Snowden, though he added that while it may not feel like it, end-to-end encryption has actually made computer security a lot better than it used to be.
(More WikiLeaks stories.)

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