WikiLeaks will disclose CIA exploits to tech companies under specific conditions

Pierluigi Paganini March 18, 2017

Assange sent an email to tech firms including “a series of conditions” that they need to fulfill before gaining access to details included in the Vault 7.

A couple of weeks ago Wikileaks published the Vault 7 archive, a huge trove of files detailing CIA hacking tools and capabilities.

The files allegedly originated from a high-security network of the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). The Vault 7 data leak sheds light on the hacking capabilities of the US Intelligence Agency and provided details about its spying infrastructure used for the massive surveillance.

“The first full part of the series, “Year Zero”, comprises 8,761 documents and files from an isolated, high-security network situated inside the CIA’s Center for Cyber Intelligence in Langley, Virginia,” reads the announcement issued by WikiLeaks by WikiLeaks.

“Recently, the CIA lost control of the majority of its hacking arsenal including malware, viruses, Trojans, weaponized “zero day” exploits, malware remote control systems and associated documentation.”

The Vault 7 dump includes confidential information, hacking tools, malicious codes and exploits developed to hack popular products from various IT companies, including Samsung, Apple, Google, and Microsoft.

Vault 7

The hacking tools in the arsenal of the CIA have been developed by the CCI’s Engineering Development Group (EDG). The developers at EDG are tasked of developing and testing any kind of malicious code, including implants, backdoors, exploits, Trojans and viruses.

WikiLeaks announced it was planning to share information on the hacking tools included in the Vault7 dump with the tech companies whose products are affected even if the White House has warned that there may be legal repercussions for the organization.

The organization wants to protect the customers of the major companies that use the products of several major companies that are impacted by the hacking tools in the data leak.

WikiLeaks clarified it would not release tools or exploits “until a consensus emerges on the technical and political nature of the CIA’s program and how such ‘weapons‘ should analyze, disarmed and published.”

During a WikiLeaks press conference on March 9, 2017, Julian Assange explained that the organization decided to share information with impacted companies.

“We have decided to work with them, to give them some exclusive access to some of the technical details we have, so that fixes can be pushed out,” WikiLeaks’ founder Julian Assange said during a Facebook Live press conference last week.

What has happened after a few days?

Assange contacted tech companies, included Apple, Microsoft, and Google in explain how Wikileaks intends to share the knowledge about the vulnerabilities the CIA was allegedly taking advantage.

It seems that Wikileaks requested the satisfaction of specific conditions to the tech companies.

According to Motherboard, Assange sent an email to Apple, Google, Microsoft and other companies this week including “a series of conditions” that the tech companies need to fulfill before gaining access to the actual technical details and code of the hacking tools included in the Vault 7 archive.

“WikiLeaks included a document in the email, requesting the companies to sign off on a series of conditions before being able to receive the actual technical details to deploy patches, according to sources.”reads the blog post published by Motherboard. “It’s unclear what the conditions are, but a source mentioned a 90-day disclosure deadline, which would compel companies to commit to issuing a patch within three months.”

Sources cited by Motherboard and informed on the matter mentioned a 90-day disclosure deadline, this means that Wikileaks is requesting tech companies to issue a patch for the vulnerabilities in just 3 months.

This implies an additional effort to the tech firms that would also decide to do not comply with Wikileaks’ conditions.

Of course, the best option for tech firms is to accept the conditions and fix the issues as soon as possible. At the same time also the CIA can decide to pass the information on the flaws to the companies avoiding that hackers in the wild can take advantage of the bugs. We cannot exclude that also a foreign government is already exploiting the flaws in targeted attacks.

“WikiLeaks and the government hold all the cards here, there’s not much the tech companies can do on their own besides rabidly looking through their code to look for any issues that might be related,” one of the anonymous sources said.

The CIA declined to comment on whether it plans to alert the tech companies. According to Motherboard, a spokesperson sent a statement saying that the agency has “no comment on the authenticity of purported intelligence documents released by Wikileaks or on the status of any investigation into the source of the documents.”

“As we’ve said previously, Julian Assange is not exactly a bastion of truth and integrity,” the spokesperson wrote. “The American public should be deeply troubled by any Wikileaks disclosure designed to damage the Intelligence Community’s ability to protect America against terrorists and other adversaries. Such disclosures not only jeopardize US personnel and operations, but also equip our adversaries with tools and information to do us harm.”

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Pierluigi Paganini

(Security Affairs – Vault 7, Wikileaks)

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