Will Wik­iLeaks work with tech com­pa­nies to de­feat CIA hacks?

Austin American-Statesman - - VIEWPOINTS - By Ted Bridis, Raphael Satter and Jack Gillum

The anti-se- crecy group Wik­iLeaks raised the prospect Wed­nes­day of shar­ing sen­si­tive de­tails it un­cov­ered about CIA hack­ing tools with lead­ing tech- nol­ogy com­pa­nies whose flag- ship prod­ucts and ser­vices have been tar­gets of the govern­ment’s spy­ing.

If that shar­ing takes place, it would give com­pa­nies such as Ap­ple, Google, Mic- rosoft, Sam­sung and others an op­por­tu­nity to iden­tify and re­pair any flaws in their soft- ware and de­vices that have been ex­ploited by U.S. spy agen­cies and some for­eign al­lies, as de­scribed in nearly 9,000 pages of se­cret CIA files Wik­iLeaks pub­lished Tues­day.

The doc­u­ments, which the White House de­clined Wed­nes­day to con­firm as au­then­tic, de­scribe clan­des­tine meth- ods for by­pass­ing or de­feat­ing en­cryp­tion, an­tivirus tools and other pro­tec­tive se­cu­rity fea­tures for com­put- ers, mo­bile phones and even smart TVs. They in­clude the world’s most pop­u­lar tech­nol­ogy plat­forms, in­clud­ing Ap­ple’s iPhones and iPads, Google’s An­droid phones and the Mi­crosoft Win­dows oper- at­ing sys­tem for desk­top com- put­ers and lap­tops.

“This is the kind of dis­clo- sure that un­der­mines our se­cu­rity, our coun­try and our well-be­ing,” White House spokesman Sean Spicer said. “This al­leged leak should con- cern ev­ery sin­gle Amer­i­can.”

Spicer de­fended then-can­di­date Don­ald Trump’s com- ment in Oc­to­ber that “I love Wik­iLeaks!” af­ter it pub­lished dur­ing the pres­i­den­tial cam­paign pri­vate, po­lit­i­cally dam- ag­ing emails stolen from the ac­count of Hil­lary Clin­ton’s cam­paign man­ager. Spicer said there was a “mas­sive dif­fer- ence” be­tween Wik­iLeaks pub­lish­ing stolen the pur­loined emails of a po­lit­i­cal fig­ure and files about na­tional se­cu­rity tools used by the CIA.

The CIA has de­clined to con- firm that the doc­u­ments are au­then­tic. But Wed­nes­day, the agency said Amer­i­cans should be “deeply trou­bled” by the dis­clo­sures.

Wik­iLeaks has not re­leased the ac­tual hack­ing tools them­selves, some of which were de­vel­oped by govern­ment hack­ers, while others were pur­chased from out­siders. The group in­di­cated it was still con­sid­er­ing its op­tions but said in a state­ment Wed­nes­day: “Tech com­pa­nies are say­ing they need more de­tails of CIA at­tack tech­niques to fix them faster. Should Wik­iLeaks work di­rectly with them?”

It wasn’t clear if Wik­iLeaks — a stri­dent critic of Google and Face­book, among others — was se­ri­ous about such ac­tion. A mes­sage seek­ing ad­di­tional de­tails from Wik­iLeaks was not im­me­di­ately re­turned, and an at­tempt to speak to founder Ju­lian As­sange on Tues­day was re­buffed.

The po­lit­i­cal fall­out and dam­age to U.S. in­tel­li­gence op­er­a­tions were still be­ing as­sessed Wed­nes­day. A for­mer head of the CIA and Na­tional Se­cu­rity Agency, Michael Hay­den, sought to as­sure peo­ple the U.S. would use such cy­ber­weapons only against for­eign tar­gets.

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