How to protect your privacy in a post-WikiLeaks world

The CIA documents released by WikiLeaks this year have highlighted the importance of ongoing security updates for the developers of modern technology.

Is your smart television spying on you?

Tech giants are currently scrambling to fix privacy exploits in their technology, in light of the recent WikiLeaks dump containing thousands of classified Central Intelligence Agency documents.

The release, titled "Vault 7" by WikiLeaks, details the CIA's technical capability to hack many of today's popular consumer devices and compromise an individual's data privacy.

These attacks come in many different forms: exploits that allow for snooping on iPhones, accessing the Android OS through Google Chrome and a terrifying TV hack that enables discrete monitoring of individuals. 

"In 'Fake Off' mode the TV operates as a bug, recording conversations and sending them to a covert CIA server."

Modern televisions now watch the public

One of the standout inclusions is the joint effort by the CIA and MI5/BTSS (British Secret Service) to hack into Samsung smart televisions. According to the press release by WikiLeaks, the documents detail how the "Weeping Angel" exploit forces the television to appear offline, while still enabling active monitoring.

"The attack against Samsung smart TVs was developed in cooperation with the United Kingdom's MI5/BTSS. 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," the report states.

"In '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."

Government hacks target vehicle and mobile security

As of October 2014, the report mentions, the CIA was looking at methods to compromise the vehicle control systems used by modern cars and trucks. The CIA's Mobile Devices Branch (MDB) apparently developed numerous attacks to also remotely hack and control smartphones.

Is your smartphone's data privacy secure?Is your smartphone's data privacy secure?

The CIA would then be able to monitor the infected phones, which would transmit the user's geolocation, audio and text communications - as well as being able to covertly activate the phone's camera and microphone. These hacks, in the wrong hands, are an incredible breach of mobile security and privacy.

"There is an extreme proliferation risk in the development of cyber 'weapons'. Comparisons can be drawn between the uncontrolled proliferation of such 'weapons', which results from the inability to contain them combined with their high market value, and the global arms trade," said Julian Assange, WikiLeaks editor. 

Why is the release of these documents so important? 

Back in 2015, WIRED wrote about Charlie Miller and Chris Valase, two hackers who were able to compromise the security of motor vehicles. In the demonstration, the pair were able to remotely shutdown a Jeep Cherokee and claimed they were capable of breaching the security of many other vehicles. 

Later that year, automobile manufacturers recalled a number of vehicles in an effort to assure the public that these vulnerabilities were being addressed and fixed. That they aren't, as these most recent documents show, is a terrifying prospect.

As demonstrated in the Jeep Cherokee hack - that took place in a semi-controlled environment, albeit a busy freeway in the USA - the ability to shutdown or control a vehicle would allow a government agency or hacker to assassinate a target with minimum evidence proving their involvement.

Choose secure communications with SafeSwiss

Along with the release of documents, WikiLeaks stated they will be working exclusively with large tech companies to help identify vulnerabilities in their hardware and software. This is crucial to the ongoing development of security practices, as it ensures that all devices are clean of potential backdoors and covert access points. At SafeSwiss, we place the highest priority on keeping your information and privacy secure

For information about our secure messaging app, which uses military-grade encryption to keep your data safe, get in touch with our team today.