“Year Zero” was the leak of 8,761 CIA documents and files from Wikileaks that is part of an ongoing series of disclosures for 2017 called “Vault 7.” Wikileaks claims that this collection of documents is only 1 percent of the information they will be releasing within this Vault 7 series.
The information allegedly came from within the CIA, was “lost” and circulated among “former U.S. government hackers and contractors” and later passed on to Wikileaks. The duration of time covered in the leaks span from 2013 to 2016. The documents within Year Zero shine light upon CIA hacking techniques and strategies that have previously been unknown to the general public.
The CIA’s Remote Device Branch (RDB) has a project known as “UMBRAGE” which, stores hacking techniques retrieved from a number of different sources. They can not only diversify their base of hacking techniques but they can cover their tracks and skillfully misdirect the blame in their footprints. The connection is can be made between these abilities and the claims of Russian tampering in the 2016 U.S. Presidential election. If the CIA is able to replicate techniques utilized by other nations to fabricate blame for a hack or cyber attack, what does that mean for the future of diplomacy and peace?
Julian Assange, Editor-In-Chief of Wikileaks, weighed in asserting, “the significance of ‘Year Zero’ goes well beyond the choice between cyberwar and cyber peace. The disclosure is also exceptional from a political, legal and forensic perspective.”
According to documents within Year Zero, the CIA’s Embedded Device Branch (EDB) developed multiple tools and systems to collect data from smart phones. The information that can be acquired consists of location data, audio and text communications. The hacking techniques can turn on microphones within iPhone, Android, Microsoft Windows and Samsung TV operating systems.
A surveillance technique called “Weeping Angel” infiltrates Samsung TV operating systems transforming them into microphones. The television can be placed into “Fake-Off” mode and record conversations of anyone in the presence of the device. The “Weeping Angel” technique is in coordination with the United Kingdom’s MI5 counterintelligence and security agency.
What could be considered an alarming part of the documents are the potential implications of the CIA’s ability to hack into vehicles with computerized systems. Wikileaks points to meeting notes in 2014 where the EDB discusses “potential mission areas” which includes the terms “Vehicle Systems” and “QNX.” Wikileaks asserted that this would allow for “nearly undetectable assassinations” but noted as well that “the purpose of such control is not specified.”
Year Zero also revealed that the U.S. consulate in Frankfurt, Germany is a covert CIA hacking base. The Frankfurt US consulate is the largest amongst US consular bases. The officials on the base are given diplomatic “black” passports and possess State Department cover. Their surveillance and hacking territory consists of Europe, the Middle East and Africa.
There is a vast treasure trove of information within the Year Zero leak that details the specifics of these programs and techniques that this article will not be able to cover. Anyone seeking more information on the subject should read through the documents on Wikileaks website and come to conclusions themselves on the implications of these revelations.