WikiLeaks today released thousands of documents that it claims reveals the hacking toolkit used by the Central Intelligence Agency to break into devices like smartphones and computers. This is the first time in quite a while that so many documents that are claimed to be related to the CIA’s operations have been leaked online. The trove consists of 7,818 pages with 943 attachment while WikiLeaks says that the entire archive of CIA material has more than several hundred million lines of computer code.
Perhaps the most startling revelation, one that would have serious repercussions for the technology industry, is the claim made by WikiLeaks that the CIA and allied intelligence agencies have been able to bypass WhatsApp, Telegram, and Signal encryption. All three are preferred communication services for those who are extra careful about their privacy.
It’s not that there’s something wrong with the encryption on these services, WikiLeaks says that government hackers are actually able to break into Android smartphones to pull “audio and message traffic before encryption is applied.” What this simply means is that before apps like WhatsApp, Signal, and Telegram can work their encryption magic, the data is pulled from the device itself.
The CIA has obviously not confirmed anything, spokesman Dean Boyd told The New York Times that “We do not comment on the authenticity or content of purported intelligence documents.” Google hasn’t commented on the existence of a vulnerability on Android that would enable government hackers to pull data before apps can apply encryption and WikiLeaks has not named the source of the leaked documents.
So a lot is not known at this point in time but it goes without saying that a conversation has now begun about this and perhaps we’ll eventually find out the truth.