March 7 WikiLeaks, the website that specializes
in exposing secrets, on Tuesday released what it said were
thousands of documents that described internal U.S. Central
Intelligence Agency discussions on hacking techniques it has
used to circumvent security on electronic devices for spying.
Reuters could not immediately verify the contents of the
published documents. The following are some questions and
answers users of consumer electronics may have:
Q: Are the documents authentic?
A: It appears at least some are real. While the CIA has
declined to comment, independent cyber security experts and
former intelligence agency employees who have looked through
them say that they appear to be authentic, citing code words
used to describe CIA hacking programs.
Q: What did we learn about the CIA's hacking program?
A. WikiLeaks published documents that it says describe CIA
tools for hacking into devices including mobile phones,
computers and smart televisions.
Q: How can you hack a TV?
A: WikiLeaks said it identified a project known as Weeping
Angel where U.S. and British intelligence agencies developed
ways to take over Samsung smart TVs equipped with microphones,
forcing them to record conversations when the device appeared to
be turned off. Experts have long said smart TVs and other
Internet-connected devices can be exploited to monitor a target.
Q: Are these revelations new?
A: While the specific details are new, it is well known in
the cyber security community that intelligence agencies are
constantly trying to leverage flaws in technology products to
Q: The documents suggest that the CIA can access information
in encrypted messaging apps like WhatsApp and Signal. I thought
they were safe from even government spying?
A: No system is perfect. The documents describe ways to get
information in those apps on Android devices, but only after
gaining full control of those phones. Reuters has not found
evidence in the documents released by WikiLeaks that the CIA had
figured a way to break the encryption in those apps.
Q: Are iPhones also vulnerable?
A: The documents discuss ways to get into iPhones as well.
One appeared to show a list of Apple iOS security flaws
purchased by U.S. intelligence agencies so they could gain
access to those devices.
Q: What should I do if I'm worried?
A: Most people do not need to worry about being targeted by
intelligence agencies. But everybody should stay on top of
software patches so all their computers, mobile phones and other
connected devices are running software with the latest security
updates. Consumers should balance security concerns with their
need to use smart devices.
Q: Is this as big as the leaks from former National Security
Agency contractor Edward Snowden?
A: The Snowden leaks revealed that the NSA was secretly
collecting U.S. call metadata on ordinary Americans. The
materials released by WikiLeaks on Tuesday did not appear to
reveal the existence of unknown any unknown programs. Instead
they supplied details on how U.S. intelligence agencies work to
discover and exploit security flaws to conduct espionage.
Q: How did WikiLeaks get the information?
A: Unclear. Someone inside the agency may have leaked the
information. Or, someone outside may have figured out a way to
(Reporting by Jim Finkle in Boston, Jonathan Weber in San
Francisco and Dustin Volz in Washington; editing by Grant