TechViews news …..
Online rumors that the ‘Signal’ message app was compromised by the WikiLeaks latest information release is totally false.
As alarm bells sound around the latest document dump from WikiLeaks, misinformation has spread like wildfire. Journalists are just starting to pore over the files, but a number of security researchers and privacy advocates (including TechViews News) are hoping to quash the misconception that the encrypted chat app Signal has been compromised.
In spite of the misconceptions, some in security still see the WikiLeaks ‘Vault7’ data as a wake-up call for those who don’t yet take privacy seriously. Signal and other encrypted messaging services are still functioning exactly as originally intended as the hackers aren’t ‘breaking’ that encryption.
Ultimately, encrypted apps like Signal remain one of the most robust ways to protect your private communications — the recent WikiLeaks news didn’t change that.
So … what information was actually released?
Documents released in the 8,761 document and file dump dubbed ‘Vault 7‘ were obtained from an “isolated, high-security network” at the CIA’s Center for Cyber Intelligence in Langley, Va., a press release from WikiLeaks said. The trove had been “circulated among former U.S. government hackers and contractors,” one of whom allegedly turned the archive to WikiLeaks.
Among revelations still emerging from the shocking disclosure is an alleged CIA program named “Weeping Angel,” in which Samsung brand “smart” televisions were apparently being used as recording devices. “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,” WikiLeaks claims. “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.”
Smart TVs aren’t the only commonly used devices that may have a potentially more-sinister purpose. WikiLeaks is suggesting that “Apple’s iPhone, Google’s Android and Microsoft’s Windows” are also being “turned into covert microphones.” Infected phones, according to the release, “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.”
Is this bad for the average citizen?
Unless you’re a high-value target, such as a terrorist, arms dealer, foreign politician or diplomat or, well, a spy, the government will probably not be interested in what’s on your phone, or what your computer’s webcam or Smart-TV can observe.
But as of now, not all Smart-TV’s are at risk, only those made by Samsung and are capable of listening for voice commands. WikiLeaks alleges that the CIA tool “Weeping Angel” (a Doctor Who reference ), developed with Britain’s MI5, puts Samsung Smart TVs in a “fake-off” state in which the device only appears to be turned off.
Please be aware that newly developed voice activated home systems could be at risk as well. This includes Amazon’s Echo, Google Home, and the Comcast/Xfinity program selector.
But if your TV or other home devices can’t listen for voice commands, you’re safe. If it does, you could unplug it when it’s not being used.
Be Safe – Backup Your Data Regularly!
And don’t forget to take advantage of our FREE subscription to the TechViews.org Newsletter. A must-read if you are interested in Internet Security.