The explosive claims made by WikiLeaks on Tuesday — that the CIA can turn popular smartphones and televisions into remote spying devices — highlights how unwitting consumers have allowed their love for electronics to make them vulnerable to covert surveillance.
“It’s a boon for the good guys and the bad guys,” said, Tyler Cohen Wood, a former senior U.S. intelligence officer. “There is just so much information that is out there. Everywhere we go, our politics, when we’re home, we’re not home, our health, our pattern of life is out there, and it’s due to these devices.”
WikiLeaks’ allegations — made alongside the release of thousands of documents purported to be stolen from the CIA — have not been confirmed, but officials say they appear authentic.
Smartphone listening post
Assuming the documents’ veracity, the leaked documents call attention to how consumers have unwittingly made themselves vulnerable to hacking through the widespread adoption of smart mobile devices.
Over the past 10 years, smartphones have taken the consumer electronic market by storm.
Some 77 percent of people in the U.S. now own a smartphone, according to a November 2016 study by the Pew Research Center. That’s a marked increase from 2011, when just 35 percent of Americans said they owned a smartphone.
WikiLeaks claims that CIA spies have 24 exploits for smartphones powered by Google’s Android operating system and “numerous” exploits for Apple’s iOS operating system.
The techniques appear to go beyond wiretaps, with spooks supposedly having the ability to surreptitiously activate the microphone on a smartphone or smart TV without their target having a clue.
WikiLeaks claims that the “techniques permit the CIA to bypass the encryption of WhatsApp, Signal, Telegram, Wiebo, Confide and Cloackman by hacking the smartphones that they run on and collecting audio and message traffic before encryption is applied.”
In a statement to ABC News, Apple said, “While our initial analysis indicates that many of the issues leaked today were already patched in the latest iOS, we will continue work to rapidly address any identified vulnerabilities. We always urge customers to download the latest iOS to make sure they have the most recent security updates.”
After original publication of this story, Heather Adkins, Director of Information Security and Privacy at Google, said in a statement to ABC News: “As we’ve reviewed the documents, we’re confident that security updates and protections in both Chrome and Android already shield users from many of these alleged vulnerabilities. Our analysis is ongoing and we will implement any further necessary protections. We’ve always made security a top priority and we continue to invest in our defenses.”
As ABC News reported in August, cybersecurity researchers discovered at the time three major vulnerabilities in the Apple iPhone operating system affecting users worldwide and prompting the…