It sounds like something out of a John le Carré spy novel. But it’s apparently all too real.
The Central Intelligence Agency can spy on you through your smartphone, your car … even your TV.
That’s the latest revelation from the notorious anti-secrecy organization WikiLeaks. On Tuesday, it made public thousands of CIA files that reveal secret cyber-tools the agency uses.
These tools include the ability to hack into cell phones, TVs, internet-connected cars and other ordinary devices … and subsequently convert them into surveillance tools.
The stunning capabilities are described in the so-called “Vault 7” document release.
WikiLeaks published 7,818 web pages and 943 attachments from a development groupware that’s used by the CIA’s engineers. And there’s allegedly more where those came from.
Here’s what we know now …
The CIA’s spying capabilities include recording the sounds, images and the private text messages of users before the encryption process even takes place.
In other words, the CIA — and by extension “Big Brother” — owns your communications, your tech gadgets … and, basically, you.
I guess I’d have to say that’s more Orwell than le Carré.
So, what are the most outrageous of these government surveillance programs?
Initial reports on the WikiLeaks documents show that the CIA has a specialized unit that can steal data from Apple (AAPL) products like the iPhone and the iPad. There’s also a specialized unit that can steal data from Google’s (GOOGL) Android mobile operating system.
These units can create computer malware based on the “zero day” exploits that compromised companies are not even aware of. (“Zero” refers to how much time a company has. That is, between when it finds a hole in its software and an attacker possibly exploiting it.)
According to WikiLeaks, the malware for smartphones allows the CIA to …
“bypass the encryption of WhatsApp, Signal, Telegram, Weibo, Confide and Cloackman by hacking the ‘smart’ phones that they run on and collecting audio and message traffic before encryption is applied.”
So, if you thought you were being “safe” by using one of these apps, think again.
In a most-interesting WikiLeaks reveal, the documents detail the CIA’s development of a “Fake Off” mode to use on Samsung smart televisions.
The Fake Off mode essentially turns these TVs into microphones that are capable of recording and submitting data directly to the CIA.
Related story: Your Smart TV May be Spying on You
Other major revelations here include the CIA’s virtual “menu” of hacking tools.
A program called “Fine Dining” allows case officers to identify specific cyber espionage needs. They can receive hacking tools tailored to meet those needs.
The agency’s “UMBRAGE” group reportedly keeps what WikiLeaks calls a “substantial library of attack techniques ‘stolen’ from malware produced in other states.”
Other “states” here means other state actors, including Russia. This virtual library of “digital fingerprints” could be used to help “misdirect attribution.”
That revelation could call into question who is responsible for those DNC hacks during the presidential campaign.
Yet that’s also a reason why WikiLeaks could have released all these documents. It may want to make it appear that the Russians had nothing to do with the DNC hacks.
Related story: Is ‘Hacktivism’ the New Cyber Enemy?
The conspiratorial speculation on why these documents were made public right now … and, more importantly, who was the source of these documents from within the intelligence community … could go on ad infinitum.
To me, these revelations confirm many other conspiratorial fears about just how invasive the CIA’s intelligence capabilities are.
I suppose if those capabilities are focused on identifying, tracking and otherwise thwarting the bad intentions of our nation’s enemies, then that’s largely a good thing.
If, however, these capabilities can be easily trained to spy on American citizens, without a warrant or probable cause, then that is most definitely not a good thing.
Unfortunately, the latest WikiLeaks reveal should serve as a reminder that digital spying is here to stay … and that it’s only likely to continue to expand from here.
Consider yourself warned.
What do you think about the WikiLeaks Vault 7 reveal? Do the agency’s reported capabilities frighten you? Or, are you more concerned with who may have compromised our national security with this revelation? I want to know what you think, so let me know by leaving me a comment on our website or by sending me an e-mail.
The markets saw red, and not just because so many were wearing that color in honor of International Women’s Day.
Today’s red-hot ADP jobs data showed that U.S. employers hired 298,000 people in February. Analysts had expected the private sector to add 190,000 jobs.
And while that’s good news for the economy, you guessed it … this also bolsters the case for a rate hike to come out of the Fed meeting one week from today.
The broader markets dipped around noon, with the Dow Industrials closing in the red by 69 points (-0.3%).
• In honor of International Women’s Day, remember that it pays to “invest like a girl.” Just ask investors in the SPDR SSGA Gender Diversity Index (SHE), which some of the brightest investment minds in the country just voted The Best New ETF of 2016.
• And if you’re still in the celebrating mood tomorrow, March 9 marks the eight-year anniversary of the bull market. Since then, the S&P 500 Total Return Index is up 315%. However, is the bottom of the bear market really the same thing as the beginning of a bull market? If that’s not the case, then some say the bull may only be four years old. (MarketWatch)
• Oil fell 5.4%, its biggest daily loss in more than a year, after U.S. inventories rose for the ninth-straight week. The 8.2-million-barrel rise, four times what analysts expected, was no doubt a topic in Houston today. There, oil producers from the U.S., Russia, Mexico, Saudi Arabia and Persian Gulf are gathered to talk about the industry’s future.
• What would you do with 40 more minutes each day? Moving to Mars could net you an extra 39 minutes and 35 seconds. But if you want to get that much more sleep each day, take note. Many scientists living on “Mars time” only manage to get six hours of shut-eye a night, with some 75% needing some form of sleep medication. (FiveThirtyEight)
Good luck and happy investing,
Uncommon Wisdom Daily