According to the Vault 7 WikiLeaks data the CIA made phone malware that can read your private chats without breaking encryption.
Anyone with half a clue always knew that the best way to subvert encryption was to bypass encryption as we at TMG Corporate Services have always done. From our blog post Am I Being Surveilled? on 29th March 2016:
Still – the point is made I think – visual intercepts are economically viable even for local LE – it’s just an ultra low light wifi enabled pin-hole snake camera in the right spot. One above the driver and passenger seat belt brackets in a private vehicle is a good location (easy access to and plenty of space behind the plastic covering the B pillar to store the bits).
Five uninterrupted minutes and both are installed. Just wait for the target to take a Sunday drive and game on. Most people rest the handset on their lap while typing stationary in traffic or better still upright and in front or on top of the wheel when driving – using one hand – which gives a nice unobstructed keystroke by keystroke view of their typing activities.
Most successful hacks are low tech
Today I have seen a bunch of publications and experts trying to assure people that this is nothing to worry about. The purity of encryption is in tact. It is an academic point.
If you are in the business of handling sensitive data then don’t use your cell phone to transmit it. It’s that simple.
* In the hours since the documents were made available by WikiLeaks, a misconception was developed, making people believe the CIA “cracked” the encryption used by popular secure messaging software including Signal and WhatsApp.
WikiLeaks asserted that: “These techniques permit the CIA to bypass the encryption of WhatsApp, Signal, Telegram, Wiebo, Confide and Cloakman by hacking the “smart” phones that they run on and collecting audio and message traffic before encryption is applied.”
This statement by WikiLeaks made most people think that the encryption used by end-to-end encrypted messaging clients such as Signal and WhatsApp has been broken. No, it hasn’t. Instead, the CIA has tools to gain access to entire phones, which would of course “bypass” encrypted messaging apps because it fails all other security systems virtually on the phone, granting total remote access to the agency.
The WikiLeaks documents do not show any attack particular against Signal or WhatsApp, but rather the agency hijacks the entire phone and listens in before the applications encrypt and transmit information.
It’s like you are sitting in a train next to the target and reading his 2-way text conversation on his phone or laptop while he’s still typing, this doesn’t mean that the security of the app the target is using has any issue.
In that case, it also doesn’t matter if the messages were encrypted in transit if you are already watching everything that happens on the device before any security measure comes into play.
But this also doesn’t mean that this makes the issue lighter, as noted by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden, “This incorrectly implies CIA hacked these apps/encryption. But the docs show iOS/Android are what got hacked—a much bigger problem.”
CIA malware and hacking tools are built by EDG (Engineering Development Group), a software development group within CCI (Center for Cyber Intelligence), a department belonging to the CIA’s DDI (Directorate for Digital Innovation). The DDI is one of the five major directorates of the CIA.
The attack against Samsung smart TVs was developed in cooperation with the United Kingdom’s MI5/BTSS.
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.
The increasing sophistication of surveillance techniques has drawn comparisons with George Orwell’s 1984, but “Weeping Angel”, developed by the CIA’s Embedded Devices Branch (EDB), which infests smart TVs, transforming them into covert microphones, is it’s most emblematic realization.
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.
I increasingly find myself developing a “Luddite” mindset where unregulated VRSNs are concerned. Digital footprinting is becoming passé. The core toolset of mass surveillance is beginning a fundamental shift whose focus is less about observation than it is about manipulation. I like to call it “Orwell 4.0”.
[Data collection / mining apps in use by Alphabet Agencies have been well covered on this blog and include XKeyscore; PRISM; ECHELON; Carnivore; DISHFIRE; STONEGHOST; Tempora; Frenchelon; Fairview; MYSTIC; DCSN; Boundless; Informant; BULLRUN; PINWALE; Stingray; SORM; DANCINGOASIS; SPINNERET; MOONLIGHTPATH; INCENSER; AZUREPHOENIX]
A sort of post-Orwellian “Big Bro” application of subliminal advertising is emerging but this way round the subliminal message is not directed at the product preferences of a consumer but rather the individuals social, economic and political affiliations, opinions and reactions.
Where does this sit with the Federal Communications Commission findings over forty years ago that declared subliminal advertising “contrary to the public interest” because it involved “intentional deception” of the public.
It seems “intentional deception” is about to go mainstream with the support of the likes of Zuckerberg but now with a far more sinister raison d’être.
Are You In A Virtual Police State?
A pretty loose and old list of factors that can help to determine where a nation lies on The Electronic Police State standings does serve to demonstrate the arrival of these new “tools” (by their complete absence in the list):
Daily Documents Requirement of state-issued identity documents and registration;
Border Issues Inspections at borders, searching computers, demanding decryption of data;
Financial Tracking State’s ability to search and record all financial transactions: Checks, credit card use, wires, etc;
Gag Orders Criminal – penalties if you tell someone the state is searching their records;
Anti-Crypto Laws Outlawing or restricting cryptography;
Constitutional Protection – A lack of constitutional protections for the individual, or the overriding of such protections;
Data Storage Ability – The ability of the state to store the data they gather;
Data Search Ability – The ability to search the data they gather;
ISP Data Retention States forcing Internet Service Providers to save detailed records of all their customers’ Internet usage;
Telephone Data Retention States forcing telephone companies to record and save records of all their customers’ telephone usage;
Cell Phone Records States forcing cellular telephone companies to record and save records of all their customers’ usage;
Medical records States demanding records from all medical service providers and retaining the same;
Enforcement Ability The state’s ability to use overwhelming force (exemplified by SWAT Teams) to seize anyone they want, whenever they want;
Habeus Corpus Lack of habeus corpus – the right not to be held in jail without prompt due process. Or, the overriding of such protections;
Police-Intel Barrier The lack of a barrier between police organizations and intelligence organizations. Or, the overriding of such barriers;
Covert Hacking State operatives removing – or adding! – digital evidence to/from private computers covertly. Covert hacking can make anyone appear as any kind of criminal desired;
Loose Warrants Warrants issued without careful examination of police statements and other justifications by a truly independent judge.
The NextGen Counter Measures Are Proactive Before The “Thought” Emerges
Traditional mass surveillance will ultimately be relegated to a support role by the emerging tech of augmented and virtual reality with the assistance of covert biometric data acquisition, facial and gait recognition data also extracted covertly from “innocuous” social media posts and AR/VR interactions on VRSN’s.
And of course the “carrot & stick” tools that will look to alter subjects attitudes and opinions by harvesting emotional responses (using retina-tracking for example) and “cleansing” these attitudes and opinions to what is the “preferred” [state] response / opinion / attitude / reaction (or more likely lack of reaction).
[As one chief data scientist at an unnamed Silicon Valley company told Harvard business professor Shoshanna Zuboff: “The goal of everything we do is to change people’s actual behavior at scale. … We can capture their behaviors, identify good and bad behaviors, and develop ways to reward the good and punish the bad.”] – The Secrets of Surveillance Capitalism; 05.03.2016, von SHOSHANA ZUBOFF.]
A research team* at one of my Alma Mater’s Dublin City University wrote a paper in 2014 that postulated that with AR, VR and AI in VRSN’s that subjects and their world view could be tweaked or changed.
[“The rapid evolution of information, communication and entertainment technologies will transform the lives of citizens and ultimately transform society. This paper focuses on ethical issues associated with the likely convergence of virtual realities (VR) and social networks (SNs), hereafter VRSNs. We examine a scenario in which a significant segment of the world’s population has a presence in a VRSN. Given the pace of technological development and the popularity of these new forms of social interaction, this scenario is plausible. However, it brings with it ethical problems. Two central ethical issues are addressed: those of privacy and those of autonomy. VRSNs pose threats to both privacy and autonomy. The threats to privacy can be broadly categorized as threats to informational privacy, threats to physical privacy, and threats to associational privacy. Each of these threats is further subdivided. The threats to autonomy can be broadly categorized as threats to freedom, to knowledge and to authenticity. Again, these three threats are divided into subcategories. Having categorized the main threats posed by VRSNs, a number of recommendations are provided so that policy-makers, developers, and users can make the best possible use of VRSNs.”]
Using VRSN Scenarios for Thought Manipulation & Conditioning
VRSN scenario manipulations are well suited to programming behaviour as well as altering opinion in the “target” or what we used to call the “user”. The “user” tag is no longer accurate in my opinion because the function of the “user” is to extract value from the experience. The “user” in now the “interactor”. In the new scenarios the value extraction (or injection) is enjoyed by the “publisher” or “controller”. [For publisher substitute “government”, “alphabet agency” or “despot”] – the emergent field of surveillance politics and mass manipulation.
The preferred “interactor” attitude and ultimate acceptance/agreement with ideas, opinions, reactions and points of view can be engineered by programming avatar responses to concepts in the form of gestures and facial expressions in response to these stimuli (simple applications being “happy”, “sad”, “neutral”, “angry” avatar responses).
When exposed to subject matter the VRSN can gauge the “interactors” opinions in broad terms using the analysis of the “interactors” emotional responses via eye-tracking or emotion capture and send the avatar the preferred reaction in line with the preferred opinion that the “controller” wishes the “interactor” to hold – if the kinematic fingerprinting suggests that the “interactor” does not hold the “correct” opinion.
The reality is that VRSN’s actual knowledge of the “interactors” affiliations increases exponentially over time as do the metrics which show the successful alteration / cleansing of these “opinions” over time and the A/B testing of experimental methods to produce that result in a “target”.
In an apparent contradiction the VRSN sort of goes back to the “old world” school of line of sight observation of a surveillance “target” (replacing digital footprints) but with one major difference – the observation is paired with “alteration” capabilities – all delivered while you enjoy your leisure time playing in your VRSN. Brave new virtual world.
The Convergence of Virtual Reality and Social Networks: Threats to Privacy and AutonomyAuthors:
*Institute of Ethics, Dublin City University, Dublin, Ireland. Fiachra.firstname.lastname@example.org. *Institute of Ethics, Dublin City University, Dublin, Ireland. email@example.com. *Insight Centre for Data Analytics, Dublin, Ireland. firstname.lastname@example.org. *Insight Centre for Data Analytics, Dublin, Ireland. email@example.com. *Institute of Ethics, Dublin City University, Dublin, Ireland. firstname.lastname@example.org. *Institute of Ethics, Dublin City University, Dublin, Ireland. email@example.com.
The Convergence of Virtual Reality and Social Networks: Threats to Privacy and AutonomyReferences