I know the CIA doesn’t give a dang what you are saying in front of your TV while you’re watching a game or yelling at the news.
But it’s unfortunate that some people think that’s why they shouldn’t care about what WikiLeaks exposed Tuesday.
In a document dump that they have designated as “Vault7,” WikiLeaks released 8,761 documents and files from the CIA’s Center for Cyber Intelligence (CCI). It showed their development of malware, viruses, Trojans, weaponized so-called “zero-day” exploits and malware remote control systems.
These tools were created to exploit vulnerabilities in the iPhone and iPad, Google’s Android operating system — including the smartphones and tablets that use it — and Microsoft Windows in order to turn them into surveillance tools.
Most famously, the CIA reportedly was able to turn Samsung smart TVs into covert microphones. That made me smile, because I just bought one in December.
I joked on social media that I’d better watch what I say while I’m watching “Homeland.”
I’m not concerned about the CIA turning my TV on to listen to me. I know why they created this arsenal of cyber weapons and it’s not so that some nerd in Langley, Virginia can see how bored I am while watching another episode of “Daniel Tiger” with the kids. They don’t give a crap.
They developed these weapons to spy on foreign governments and their agents.
But how these were developed — and what happened to them after their development — well, that’s definitely something Americans should give a crap about.
First, the fact that CIA created them in the first place might be an overreach of their powers and mission.
They formed their own global force of more than 5,000 hackers registered under the agency’s CCI. This giant group of “white hats” produced more than a thousand hacking systems, Trojans, viruses and weaponized malware.
The CIA, through the CCI, essentially created their own National Security Agency, the government spy agency that’s SUPPOSED to handle electronic spying. Not only is this redundant work, it keeps the CIA from having to answer to anybody else and avoid having their actions checked by another government agency.
After Edward Snowden, the tech industry in the U.S. was supposed to hear from the government on an ongoing basis about serious vulnerabilities, exploits, bugs and what-not that they discovered. This was so that Apple, Google, Microsoft, etc. could update their products to protect Americans who used their products from getting hacked.
But the CIA didn’t do that. When they found vulnerabilities, they kept it to themselves so they could exploit those vulnerabilities.
They intentionally kept Americans vulnerable to hacking.
But the worst part of what we learned thanks to Wikileaks’ Vault7 is what happened AFTER these cyber weapons were developed. According to Wikileaks, the CIA lost control of the majority of it hacking arsenal.
And if you doubt this, the simple fact that WikiLeaks got their hands on it should be proof enough.
The vastness of what CIA created is insane. By 2016, their hackers had utilized more code than is needed to run Facebook.
And at least a good chunk of it is out there for enemy governments, criminals and pimply-faced teenage hackers to find. And, unlike the CIA, they DO care about what’s on our phones and smart TVs because it gives them access to our information and, ultimately, our money.
Here’s the best analogy I’ve been able to come up with: the CIA created the cyber equivalent of some very deadly biological weapons that are able to penetrate hazmat suits. And instead of letting Americans know that we need to create better hazmat suits, they lost the damn test tubes that have the viruses in them.
Yes, the CIA needs to be able to spy on foreign governments and agents, it’s how the CIA keeps us safe.
But what the CIA has been up to has made America — and Americans — LESS safe and made us more vulnerable to attack.