Networking & Cables

WikiLeaks: CIA Hacked into Mobile Phones and Samsung Smart TVs, Listened to Conversations

"Most emblematic realization” of George Orwell’s 1984: WikiLeaks reveals that the CIA hacked iPhones, Android devices and Samsung TVs, turning them into covert microphones.

WikiLeaks: CIA Hacked into Mobile Phones and Samsung Smart TVs, Listened to Conversations
The CIA hacked into Samsung Smart TVs, deposited malware, and then eavesdropped on U.S. households, according to WikiLeaks' "Vault 7" revelations.

·

As if we weren’t concerned enough about evil-doers hacking our smart-home devices, WikiLeaks revealed today that the CIA has been hacking into consumer iOS, Android and Windows devices, as well as Samsung smart TVs for the past several years.

The accusations of CIA hacking were culled from a trove of documents code-named “Vault 7" by WikiLeaks.

WikiLeaks points to a group within the CIA, called EDG (Engineering Development Group), that develops CIA malware and hacking tools for the agency:

The EDG is responsible for the development, testing and operational support of all backdoors, exploits, malicious payloads, trojans, viruses and any other kind of malware used by the CIA in its covert operations world-wide.

While it’s no secret that the CIA routinely hacks networks and devices of citizens and governments, WikiLeaks says these newly revealed breaches are the “most emblematic realization” of George Orwell’s 1984.

In particular, the news organization cites malware called “Weeping Angel,” which “infests smart TVs, transforming them into covert microphones.”

Weeping Angel, allegedly developed “in cooperation” with the UK’s MI5/BTSS, was used to attack Samsung smart TVs, starting in 2014, according to WikiLeaks:

After infestation, Weeping Angel places the target TV in a 'Fake-Off' mode, so that the owner falsely believes the TV is off when it is on. In 'Fake-Off' mode the TV operates as a bug, recording conversations in the room and sending them over the Internet to a covert CIA server.

WikiLeaks reports the CIA also has technology to infect vehicle control systems in modern-day cars and trucks, allowing the agency to “engage in nearly undetectable assassinations.”

Mobile devices, too, are subject to CIA hacking, according to WikiLeaks: “Infected phones can be instructed to send the CIA the user's geolocation, audio and text communications as well as covertly activate the phone's camera and microphone.”

The CIA tools, WikiLeaks says, “permit the CIA to bypass the encryption of WhatsApp, Signal, Telegram, Wiebo, Confide and Cloackman by hacking the ‘smart’ phones that they run on and collecting audio and message traffic before encryption is applied.”

So the million-dollar question is: Does Trump have a Samsung TV?

Read more from WikiLeaks on “Vault 7”

Here’s the direct link to the Samsung TV "Weeping Angel" hack, which is excerpted below.

Weeping Angel (Extending) Engineering Notes

SECRET // REL USA,UK

Accomplishments during joint workshop with MI5/BTSS (week of Jun 16, 2014)

  • Discovered delete and download keyfiles are sensitive to any newline characters.
  • Found configuration file and setting that manages automatic updates.
  • Added feature to periodically re-acquire alsa (audio) device while in Fake-Off mode.
  • Suppress LEDs to improve look of Fake-Off mode.
  • Ported and modified TinyShell to provide shell, command execution, file transfer.  This version is known as pshell since it's shell functionality is really a wrapper around popen() calls to emulate shell like functionality.
  • Added feature to prevent updates (an iptables rule -- ported iptables application to this platform).
  • Received sanitized source code from UK with comms and encryption removed.
  • Tested on firmware versions 1111, 1112, and 1116 and characterized various recording qualities (wrt file size) and noise cancellation.

Factory reset:  With TV powered off, enter the following key presses on the remote:  

{{MUTE}} 182 {{POWER}}


  About the Author

Julie Jacobson, recipient of the 2014 CEA TechHome Leadership Award, is co-founder of EH Publishing, producer of CE Pro, Electronic House, Commercial Integrator, Security Sales and other leading technology publications. She currently spends most of her time writing for CE Pro in the areas of home automation, security, networked A/V and the business of home systems integration. Julie majored in Economics at the University of Michigan, spent a year abroad at Cambridge University, earned an MBA from the University of Texas at Austin, and has never taken a journalism class in her life. She's a washed-up Ultimate Frisbee player currently residing in Carlsbad, Calif. Email Julie at [email protected]

Follow Julie on social media:
Twitter · LinkedIn · Google+

Julie also participates in these groups:
LinkedIn · Google+

View Julie Jacobson's complete profile.



CE Pro Magazine

Not a Magazine Subscriber?
Subscribe Today...It's FREE!!

Comments

Posted by BFN on March 17, 2017

Sure, wikileaks is as truthful as those late night ads on TV.  GO CIA!!

Posted by John Nemesh on March 16, 2017

If you take a step back and read what was revealed, the affected models were the “F” series Samsung sets from a few years back…also the CURRENT sets do NOT have a mic in the TV, nor do they have the cameras that were present in the old models.  Voice recognition on current models is via the mic on the bluetooth connected remote…and if you have customers who are concerned about it, you can easily control the set with a universal remote that does NOT have a mic!  Problem solved.  Next?

Posted by ProAudioGA on March 13, 2017

Seriously??  a russian disinformation machine…???  Some of you never cease to amaze me.  WikiLeaks has never , NEVER, had to retract a report due to false information.  I completely disagree with the release of this information, but it is extremely accurate.  Let’s try to not go down some crazy rabbit hole of conspiracy here.  If you were surprised by this information then you should really do a better job of following the technology in our industry.  There are really only two things to take from this development:  1) The CIA is not authorized to operate on us soil so this information is being shared across all branches of government, and 2) if you want privacy, move to the country and go off the grid.  just be sure you look out for drones that can here you speak from 10,000 ft.  face it, the convenience brought to us by our technology is also the very thing that makes us the most uncomfortable.  As someone who once held a top secret clearance i can tell you that almost every single “Cool” gadget that we have today started in a defense contractors lab over 5 years ago.  So please, come out of your basement, wipe the Cheetos dust off your fingers, and soak in some sunshine.  This was inevitable and there is absolutely nothing you can do to stop it.

Posted by RobMacK on March 8, 2017

As should be obvious by now to anyone who’s been observing this group these past 4 years, Wikileaks is nothing more than a Russian propaganda/disinformation machine. Whether or not this “info” is actually true is not the point. Privacy, either online or in person, disappeared many many years ago. It has been replaced with paranoia, fear and misinformation.

Do I doubt that the CIA and their international counterparts have come up with all sorts of nasty tools to spy on us? Nope. Do I care? Yes. What can I do about it? Nothing. What can anyone do about it? V little. Will these tools be refined & developed by other 3rd party hackers in days/months/years to come? Of course! And what can I do about that, apart from getting rid of every modern convenience with a microchip inside of it and go live as a hermit in a cave, bartering my wares for life’s necessities? Pretty much nothing.

Move along, nothing to see here. Keep us safe? Yeah, they’re doing a great job with that.

Posted by John Nemesh on March 7, 2017

In Soviet Amerika, TV watches YOU!

Posted by Chris dePaola on March 7, 2017

Yeah, don’t care and I support them.  Keep us safe please, that’s all I care about.

Posted by TheDarkKnight on March 7, 2017

And yet, the Government still doesn’t know how to build roads!

Posted by Richard Gunther on March 7, 2017

Um…kind of makes Visio seem like a bunch of amateurs! I’m kidding, obviously. But if this is true, this is horrible on so many levels. Privacy and unwarranted surveillance issues aside, this is every tech conspiracy theorist’s nightmare, right? Guess what: Your TV really IS spying on you. Not figuratively, not mining meta-data, not pixel scraping. Full-on, unfettered spying. Yikes.

Posted by Richard Gunther on March 7, 2017

Um…kind of makes Visio seem like a bunch of amateurs! I’m kidding, obviously. But if this is true, this is horrible on so many levels. Privacy and unwarranted surveillance issues aside, this is every tech conspiracy theorist’s nightmare, right? Guess what: Your TV really IS spying on you. Not figuratively, not mining meta-data, not pixel scraping. Full-on, unfettered spying. Yikes.

Posted by TheDarkKnight on March 7, 2017

And yet, the Government still doesn’t know how to build roads!

Posted by Chris dePaola on March 7, 2017

Yeah, don’t care and I support them.  Keep us safe please, that’s all I care about.

Posted by John Nemesh on March 7, 2017

In Soviet Amerika, TV watches YOU!

Posted by RobMacK on March 8, 2017

As should be obvious by now to anyone who’s been observing this group these past 4 years, Wikileaks is nothing more than a Russian propaganda/disinformation machine. Whether or not this “info” is actually true is not the point. Privacy, either online or in person, disappeared many many years ago. It has been replaced with paranoia, fear and misinformation.

Do I doubt that the CIA and their international counterparts have come up with all sorts of nasty tools to spy on us? Nope. Do I care? Yes. What can I do about it? Nothing. What can anyone do about it? V little. Will these tools be refined & developed by other 3rd party hackers in days/months/years to come? Of course! And what can I do about that, apart from getting rid of every modern convenience with a microchip inside of it and go live as a hermit in a cave, bartering my wares for life’s necessities? Pretty much nothing.

Move along, nothing to see here. Keep us safe? Yeah, they’re doing a great job with that.

Posted by ProAudioGA on March 13, 2017

Seriously??  a russian disinformation machine…???  Some of you never cease to amaze me.  WikiLeaks has never , NEVER, had to retract a report due to false information.  I completely disagree with the release of this information, but it is extremely accurate.  Let’s try to not go down some crazy rabbit hole of conspiracy here.  If you were surprised by this information then you should really do a better job of following the technology in our industry.  There are really only two things to take from this development:  1) The CIA is not authorized to operate on us soil so this information is being shared across all branches of government, and 2) if you want privacy, move to the country and go off the grid.  just be sure you look out for drones that can here you speak from 10,000 ft.  face it, the convenience brought to us by our technology is also the very thing that makes us the most uncomfortable.  As someone who once held a top secret clearance i can tell you that almost every single “Cool” gadget that we have today started in a defense contractors lab over 5 years ago.  So please, come out of your basement, wipe the Cheetos dust off your fingers, and soak in some sunshine.  This was inevitable and there is absolutely nothing you can do to stop it.

Posted by John Nemesh on March 16, 2017

If you take a step back and read what was revealed, the affected models were the “F” series Samsung sets from a few years back…also the CURRENT sets do NOT have a mic in the TV, nor do they have the cameras that were present in the old models.  Voice recognition on current models is via the mic on the bluetooth connected remote…and if you have customers who are concerned about it, you can easily control the set with a universal remote that does NOT have a mic!  Problem solved.  Next?

Posted by BFN on March 17, 2017

Sure, wikileaks is as truthful as those late night ads on TV.  GO CIA!!