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Some comments on the Wikileaks CIA/#vault7 leak

2017-03-07 21:10
I thought I'd write up some notes about the Wikileaks CIA "#vault7" leak. This post will be updated frequently over the next 24 hours.

The CIA didn't remotely hack a TV. The docs are clear that they can update the software running on the TV using a USB drive. There's no evidence of them doing so remotely over the Internet. If you aren't afraid of the CIA breaking in an installing a listening device, then you should't be afraid of the CIA installing listening software.

The CIA didn't defeat Signal/WhattsApp encryption. The CIA has some exploits for Android/iPhone. If they can get on your phone, then of course they can record audio and screenshots. Technically, this bypasses/defeats encryption -- but such phrases used by Wikileaks arehighly misleading, since nothing related to Signal/WhatsApp is happening. What's happening is the CIA is bypassing/defeating the phone. Sometimes. If they've got an exploit for it, or can trick you into installing their software.

There's no overlap or turf war with the NSA. The NSA does "signals intelligence", so they hack radios and remotely across the Internet. The CIA does "humans intelligence", so they hack locally, with a human. The sort of thing they do is bribe, blackmail, or bedazzle some human "asset" (like a technician in a nuclear plant) to stick a USB drive into a slot. All the various military, law enforcement, and intelligence agencies have hacking groups to help them do their own missions.

The CIA isn't more advanced than the NSA. Most of this dump is child's play, simply malware/trojans cobbled together from bits found on the Internet. Sometimes they buy more advanced stuff from contractors, or get stuff shared from the NSA. Technologically, they are far behind the NSA in sophistication and technical expertise.

The CIA isn't hoarding 0days. For one thing, few 0days were mentioned at all. The CIA's techniques rely upon straightforward hacking, not super secret 0day hacking Second of all, they aren't keeping 0days back in a vault somewhere -- if they have 0days, they are using them.

The VEP process is nonsense. Activists keep mentioning the "vulnerability equities process", in which all those interested in 0days within the government has a say in what happens to them, with the eventual goal that they be disclosed to vendors. The VEP is nonsense. The activist argument is nonsense. As far as I can tell, the VEP is designed as busy work to keep people away from those who really use 0days, such as the NSA and the CIA. If they spend millions of dollars buying 0days because it has that value in intelligence operations, they aren't going to destroy that value by disclosing to a vendor. If VEP forces disclosure, disclosure still won't happen, the NSA will simply stop buying vulns.

There's no false flags. In several places, the CIA talks about making sure that what they do isn't so unique, so it can't be attributed to them. However, Wikileaks's press release hints that the "UMBRAGE" program is deliberately stealing techniques from Russia to use as a false-flag operation. This is nonsense.

This hurts the CIA a lot. Already, one AV researcher has told me that a virus they once suspected came from the Russians or Chinese can now be attributed to the CIA, as it matches the description perfectly to something in the leak. We can develop anti-virus and intrusion-detection signatures based on this information that will defeat much of what we read in these documents. This would put a multi-year delay in the CIA's development efforts. Plus, it'll now go on a witch-hunt looking for the leaker, which will erode morale. Update: Three extremely smart and knowledgeable people who I respect disagree, claiming it won't hurt the CIA a lot. I suppose I'm focusing on "hurting the cyber abilities" of the CIA, not the CIA as a whole, which mostly is non-cyber in function.

The CIA is not cutting edge. A few days ago, Hak5 started selling "BashBunny", a USB hacking tool more advanced than the USB tools in the leak. The CIA seems to get most of their USB techniques from open-source projects, such Travis Goodpseeds "GoodFET" project.

The CIA isn't spying on us. Snowden revealed how the NSA was surveilling all Americans. Nothing like that appears in the CIA dump. It's all legitimate spy stuff (assuming you think spying on foreign adversaries is legitimate).

Update #2: How is hacking cars and phones not SIGINT (which is the NSA's turf)?[*The answer is via physical access. For example, they might have a device that plugs into the ODBII port on the car that quickly updates the firmware of the brakes. Think of it as normal spy activity (e.g. cutting a victim's brakes), but now with cyber.

Source: 354828965613943458-tsop.74089773-golb:9991,moc.reggolb:gat

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