MS Risk Blog

Wikileaks Offers Tech Firms First Pick at CIA Files

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Last week, Wikileaks announced that technology firms will get “exclusive access” to details of the CIA’s cyber-warfare programme. The statement comes after the anti-secrecy website published thousands of the US spy agency’s secret documents, including what it says are the CIA’s hacking tools.

On Thursday 9 March, Wikileaks founder Julian Assange stated that, after some thought, he had decided to give the tech community further leaks first. Mr Assange disclosed that “once the material is effectively disarmed, we will publish details.” US federal agencies have already launched a criminal investigation into the release of the documents.

In its first tranche of leaks, Wikileaks alleged that the CIA had developed what Mr Assange called “a giant arsenal” of malware to attack “all the systems that average people use.” Tech firms, including Apple and Google, have since stated that hey are developing counter-measures to combat any malware that the CIA may have developed. Mr Assange has disclosed that his organization had “a lost more information on the cyber-weapons programme,” noting that while Wikileaks maintained a neutral position on most of its leaks, in this case it did make a strong stance, stating “we want to secure communications technology because, without it, journalists aren’t able to hold the state to account.” Mr Assange also claimed that the intelligence service had known for weeks that Wikileaks had access to the material and done nothing about it.

On Thursday, Mr Assange also spoke more about the Umbrage programme, which was revealed in the first leaked documents. He stated that a whole section of the CIA is working on Umbrage, a system that attempts to trick people into thinking that they have been hacked by other groups or countries by collecting malware from other nation states, such as Russia. He noted that “the technology is designed to be unaccountable,” and claimed that an anti-virus expert, who was not named, had come forward to say that he believed sophisticated malware that he had previously attributed to Iran, Russia and China, now looked like something that the CIA had developed.   Mr Assange went on to say that “the type of attack system corresponds to a description we published of that attack system unless of course China has already got hold of these parts of the CIA arsenal and is using it to pretend to be the CIA,” adding that the intelligence agency could potentially be causing the tech industry “billions of dollars of damage.”

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