WikiLeaks released 8,761 files from the very depths of Langley about hacking tools used by the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) to break into mobile phones, communication apps and other electronic devices for years.
The organisation posted on its official Twitter account — thought to be run by its co-founder Julian Assange — a link to the trove of documents early Tuesday. WikiLeaks called the first document dump "Year Zero", the first instalment of a larger project named Vault 7.
The transcripts showed that CIA hackers, in partnership with other US and foreign agencies, have been able to bypass the encryption on popular messaging apps such as WhatsApp, Telegram and Signal. This means the CIA could get into Apple Inc iPhones, Google Inc Android devices and other gadgets in order to capture text and voice messages before they were encrypted with sophisticated software.
The files did not indicate if the actual encryption of Signal or other secure messaging apps had been compromised.
The archive appears to have been circulated among former US government hackers and contractors in an unauthorised manner, one of whom has provided WikiLeaks with portions of the archive, the anti-secrecy organisation said.
The information represents the latest breach of classified material from US intelligence agencies.
TRT World's Tetiana Anderson discusses from Washington the latest WikiLeaks data dump.
Jonathan Liu, a spokesman for the CIA, said, "We do not comment on the authenticity or content of purported intelligence documents."
White House spokesman Sean Spicer also did not comment.
Google declined to comment on the purported hacking of its Android platform but said it was investigating the matter.
Snowden on Twitter said the files amount to the first public evidence that the US government secretly buys software to exploit technology. He was referring to a table published by WikiLeaks that appeared to list various Apple iOS flaws purchased by the CIA and other intelligence agencies.
Apple Inc did not respond to a request for comment.
"Year Zero" is not an app issue. It applies to devices and operating systems and will require security updates from their respective manufacturers to mitigate the threats. Naming any particular app in this context is misleading," the messaging service Telegram said on their website.
Several contractors and private cyber security experts said the materials, dated between 2013 and 2016, appeared to be legitimate.
A longtime intelligence contractor with expertise in US hacking tools told Reuters the documents included correct "cover" terms describing active cyber programs.
Unlike the Snowden leaks, which revealed the NSA was secretly collecting details of telephone calls by ordinary Americans, the new WikiLeaks material did not appear to contain material that would fundamentally change what is publicly known about cyber espionage.
Imagine a world where the actual CIA spends its time figuring out how to spy on you through your TV. That's today. https://t.co/dQHBrsyIoI— Edward Snowden (@Snowden) March 7, 2017