Depending on your current level of cynicism, the news that the CIA exploits technology vulnerabilities to pursue their various agendas will probably come as no surprise. However most everyone should be able to enjoy the irony of their current predicament: actual evidence of this practice comes to us courtesy of a leak of their own documents that lay out their repertoire with eye-opening detail. However, unlike Snowden’s exposure of the NSA which led to worldwide shock and outrage over the brazen invasions of privacy perpetrated by nation-state surveillance programs, the papers published on Wikileaks delve instead into the technical methods and tools the CIA had at their disposal – trade secrets in the most literal sense.
At the time of writing this blog, the news is barely 24 hours old, and the set of documents released on Wikileaks is only part of a larger collection of nearly 9000 files which will require time and resources to verify. Former intelligence officials are saying that the currently published documents are likely legitimate based upon the type and detail of information they contained despite an obvious, “No comment,” verification refusal from the CIA itself. Even more interestingly, the online security community, rather than panicking at the level of exploits documented, seemed to be nodding their heads in collective affirmation, as if to say, “I knew those spooks were hoarding these zero-days for themselves.”
What this means for you:
For the rest of us, this is merely a confirmation of what we suspected (and Hollywood depicted) all along: the CIA, just like any other hacker out there, was using technology weaknesses and flaws to pursue their own interests, often at the expense of someone’s privacy and maybe even their constitutional rights. If you had something to hide that might be worthy of the CIA (or some nation-state’s) interest and you used technology to store or transmit that data, it’s likely they already know about it, as the leaked documents detail programs and technology exploits going back at least four years.
Unfortunately for us, exposure of the CIA secrets is yet another Pandora’s Box of exploits that are now available for anyone, not just morally questionable but somewhat accountable government agencies to use. It also draws even more divisive lines between USA and Russia in the ongoing tangle over alleged Presidential election influence and collusion allegations leveled against the current White House administration. We may have breathed a sigh of relief when 2016 was over, but it looks like it might have been a hastily drawn in light of the dunking we have ahead of us.