CIA has Dedicated Hacking Units Developing Zero-Day Exploits and Malware for iOS, Other Platforms

WikiLeaks today published a cache of 8,761 secret documents detailing tactics the United States Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) relies on for breaching iPhones, iPads, Android smartphones and tablets, Windows PCs and even routers and smart TVs. It’s currently unclear if the documents—available to peruse on the group’s website—have serious privacy and security implications. Dubbed “Vault 7”, the leak has been teased on WikiLeaks’ Twitter account for a few weeks prior to its release.

Leaked documents prove that the agency is in possession of so-called “zero day” exploits for a number of platforms, including Windows, macOS, Solaris, Linux and more. Though nothing new, the development is newsworthy because zero day exploits are commonly unknown to Apple and the security community at large.

According to the information, those involved are primarily set on iOS devices, due to their popularity “among social, political, diplomatic and business elites.”
“…a specialized 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. CIA’s arsenal includes numerous local and remote “zero days” developed by CIA or obtained from GCHQ, NSA, FBI or purchased from cyber arms contractors such as Baitshop. The disproportionate focus on iOS may be explained by the popularity of the iPhone among social, political, diplomatic and business elites.”
The information is being brought to the surface because, as revealed in the leak, the CIA has “lost control” of the majority of the malware it has implemented in these endeavors, and, as a result, hs been passed around between former U.S. government hackers and contractors, all unauthorized.
“Recently, the CIA lost control of the majority of its hacking arsenal including malware, viruses, trojans, weaponized “zero day” exploits, malware remote control systems and associated documentation. This extraordinary collection, which amounts to more than several hundred million lines of code, gives its possessor the entire hacking capacity of the CIA. The archive appears to have been circulated among former U.S. government hackers and contractors in an unauthorized manner, one of whom has provided WikiLeaks with portions of the archive.”
The teams within the CIA are not only focused on iOS devices. There are other teams within the Center for Cyber Intelligence that are working on other malware intrusions and zero-day exploits for Samsung smart TVs, the Android platform, and Windows. The goal in some of these instances is also to turn these devices into “covert microphones.”

The documents go even further, suggesting that the size and scope of this dedicated branch within the CIA is essentially a “second NSA,” with even less oversight:
“By the end of 2016, the CIA’s hacking division, which formally falls under the agency’s Center for Cyber Intelligence (CCI), had over 5000 registered users and had produced more than a thousand hacking systems, trojans, viruses, and other “weaponized” malware. Such is the scale of the CIA’s undertaking that by 2016, its hackers had utilized more code than that used to run Facebook. The CIA had created, in effect, its “own NSA” with even less accountability and without publicly answering the question as to whether such a massive budgetary spend on duplicating the capacities of a rival agency could be justified.”
Perhaps most worryingly of all, the documents reveal that the CIA has the power to manipulate certain vehicle software in order to cause fatal accidents that the agency likens to “nearly undetectable assassinations.”

Source: WikiLeaks


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