WikiLeaks says CIA can use smart TVs to spy on owners

“Weeping Angel” is named after a Doctor Who villain that pretends to be a motionless statue

Thomas McMullan
8 Mar 2017
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WikiLeaks has published an enormous set of files allegedly detailing the US government’s hacking secrets, including particulars about the CIA’s ability to turn smartphones and TVs into listening devices.

Among the 8,000-plus pages of classified information, one project that stands out is “Weeping Angel”, which relates to an effort to compromise Samsung’s F8000 range of Smart TVs.

Named after a Doctor Who villain that pretends to be a statue, “Weeping Angel” is said to fool users with a “fake-off” mode, which would allow agents to secretly record audio even though the TV appears to be switched off.

Documents dating from June 2014 explain that an audio file could then sent via Wi-Fi to CIA servers once the TV is switched on, although there were plans to have Wi-Fi covertly left on in “fake-off” mode. Under “future work”, there is also a note about adding video capture or video snapshots.

The documents note the project was accomplished during a workshop with the UK’s MI5, although the Home Office has yet to comment on the veracity of this claim.   

Samsung has previously been in the firing line in 2015, for adding a clause in its private policy agreement that enables the company to gather audio recorded by its TVs – a move that was compared at the time to the telescreens used in George Orwell’s classic dystopian novel, Nineteen Eighty-Four.

Apple “already patched” vulnerabilities

Elsewhere in the “Vault 7” leaks are details about exploits that would allow authorities to break into Android and iOS devices. Apple has since commented, claiming it has “already patched” many of these vulnerabilities. 

“While our initial analysis indicates that many of the issues leaked today were already patched in the latest iOS,” Apple’s statement reads, “we will continue work to rapidly address any identified vulnerabilities.”

The company has not gone into specifics about which of the flaws raised by the leaks have been patched, or when further fixes will be rolled out, but that users should “download the latest iOS to make sure they have the most recent security updates”. 

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