Privacy

by Karl Bode


Filed Under:
cia, iot, security, smart tvs, surveillahce

Companies:
samsung



CIA Leaks Unsurprisingly Show The Internet Of Broken Things Is A Spy's Best Friend

from the watching-you-watching-me dept

So if you've spent any amount of time around here, you probably already know that the security and privacy standards surrounding the internet of (broken) things sit somewhere between high comedy and dogshit. Whether it's your refrigerator leaking your gmail credentials or your children's toys leaking kids' conversations, putting a microphone and camera on everything that isn't nailed down -- then connecting those devices to the internet without thinking about security and privacy -- hasn't been quite the revolution we were promised.

Obviously for the NSA and CIA, the internet of broken things is a field day, and the fact that the intelligence community would exploit this paper-mache grade security should surprise nobody. In fact, James Clapper made it abundantly clear last year that the internet of not-so-smart things was a massive target for surveillance:

"In the future, intelligence services might use the [internet of things] for identification, surveillance, monitoring, location tracking, and targeting for recruitment, or to gain access to networks or user credentials,” Clapper said."

As Mike already noted, most of what's contained in this week's Wikileaks Vault 7 CIA Document Dump isn't all that surprising. It includes stockpiled Android and iOS vulnerabilities, revelations that the US government covertly pays to keep US software unsafe and vulnerable (long suspected, now proven), and the fact that the government routinely exploits weak security in the Internet of Things to spy on targets. That includes turning Samsung "smart" televisions, long in the news for poor security and privacy violations, as an on-demand spying apparatus.

The documents highlight a CIA program named "Weeping Angel," which allows a CIA hacker to use the Samsung smart TV's microphone to listen in on a target, while the television appears to be off (aka a "fake off mode"). The documents only detail one TV model (the Samsung F8000), and seem to indicate that at least this particular exploit required someone to use an infected USB drive on the television in question:

Given the all-too-frequent lack of encryption (or hey, much security at all when it comes to collecting and transmitting data), it's still reasonable to surmise that a remote attack is perfectly possible on a laundry list of IoT devices, including televisions. Also, as the Intercept notes, given the problems we've repeatedly documented with smart televisions, it would be naive to think other sets aren't impacted:

"Security and cryptography researcher Kenneth White told The Intercept that smart TVs are “historically a pretty easy target” and “a pretty great attack platform,” given that TVs are typically located in a living room or bedroom.” White added that “there is zero chance the [CIA has] only targeted Samsung. It’s just too easy to mod other embedded OSes” found in the smart TVs sold by every other manufacturer."

Again, not particularly surprising for a tech segment repeatedly facing lawsuits for failing to disclose that TVs collect user data, or scandals involving sending this collected data unencrypted over the internet. In 2015, Samsung was forced to issue a lengthy mea culpa after users actually bothered to read the company's privacy policy, revealing that user TVs were watching them watching it. Samsung assured users the company takes "consumer privacy very seriously and our products are designed with privacy in mind," a FAQ also reassuring users that if there's no notification, your TV isn't listening:

How do I know it’s listening or not?

  • If the TV’s voice recognition feature is turned on for a command, an icon of a microphone will appear on the screen.
  • If no icon appears on the screen, the voice recognition feature is off."
  • Apparently not. Again, this might be less of a threat if TV vendors actually took user privacy seriously, utilized system settings that made device functionality transparent, or made it easy to disable functionality of dubious value on demand. But like the rest of the Internet of Things industry, companies were so hyped to use connectivity to hoover up private user data non-transparently, their ethical apathy left the door wide open to intruders (state sponsored or otherwise).

    But hey, know that the intelligence community doesn't think you should be worried. Ex-CIA Director Gen. Michael Hayden went on The Late Show with Steven Colbert to insist that the CIA certainly doesn't use smart TVs to spy on people (something he called a "wonderful capability"), and certainly not to spy on American citizens:

    Feel better?


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    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 8 Mar 2017 @ 11:59am

      That Colbert interview was surreal. Hayden, a deep state goon greeted with howls of support from the audience for disagreeing with Trump.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      I.T. Guy, 8 Mar 2017 @ 12:09pm

      Fuking morons sitting there giggling like it's a big fuking joke. Ate up the "we aren't spying on you." Bad guys have Samsung TV's too. Every word from Hayden's mouth was a lie.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 8 Mar 2017 @ 12:12pm

      they booked him 3 months ago. or did they?

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
      identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 8 Mar 2017 @ 12:17pm

      But you don't mind Google with its thermostat division?

      Google is a spy's commercial front. -- It's nailed down that the CIA funded Google's start.

      [I bet this one never appears. Kritisch von Google ist verboten! Techdirt usually diappears or long delays my comments. You wouldn't know if I didn't tell you, right? And you never see it denied by Techdirt; the only response is fanboys try to justify censoring.] [Of course, by saying it won't appear, I'm trying to get them to prove me wrong! It's a game. This will go in about 1215 pacific.]

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 8 Mar 2017 @ 12:18pm

        Re: But you don't mind Google with its thermostat division?

        And I'm happy to be wrong.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        I.T. Guy, 8 Mar 2017 @ 12:26pm

        Re: But you don't mind Google with its thermostat division?

        LOL
        "Techdirt usually diappears or long delays my comments."

        Read as:
        Techdirt usually diapers my comment. Sounds about the right vessel for your comments.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 8 Mar 2017 @ 1:14pm

        Re: But you don't mind Google with its thermostat division?

        censoring

        What, you lost the link again? Already?

        Dude. Right. Here.

        https://www.explainxkcd.com/wiki/index.php/1357:_Free_Speech

        Bookmark the damn thing this time. Ctrl-D.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 8 Mar 2017 @ 1:18pm

        Re: But you don't mind Google with its thermostat division?

        "[I bet this one never appears. Kritisch von Google ist verboten! Techdirt usually diappears or long delays my comments."

        This tired trope again, give it a rest you eternal douche bag...

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        Stephen T. Stone (profile), 8 Mar 2017 @ 1:58pm

        Re: But you don't mind Google with its thermostat division?

        Even if Techdirt moderators are "pre-censoring" your comments, all you can do is whine about it. You cannot legally force Techdirt to accept your comments; if you believe otherwise, please point to the law that guarantees you the use of someone else's platform against their will.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 8 Mar 2017 @ 5:23pm

        Re: But you don't mind Google with its thermostat division?

        If it looks, tastes, and smells like spam...

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      icarusthecow (profile), 8 Mar 2017 @ 12:26pm

      Q: The CIA doesn't use smart TVs to spy on Americans?
      A: "Not Wittingly"

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 8 Mar 2017 @ 12:46pm

      Are these documents verifiable by other 'generally accepted as reliable' sources?

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Uriel-238 (profile), 8 Mar 2017 @ 1:12pm

      So what we got from the Vault 7 CIA Document Dump...

      Was pretty much the biggest day-zero exploit warning EVAR!

      It's an embarrassment for the CIA that they got hacked. It's an embarrassment for those OS systems exploited that they were able to be hacked.

      Now all we need is for our OS engineers to clean their backyards...thereby cleaning ours.

      All in all this is one of those things that could make things stronger, if we weren't all so distracted looking at shiny balls of foil.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 8 Mar 2017 @ 1:17pm

        Re: So what we got from the Vault 7 CIA Document Dump...

        >It's an embarrassment for those OS systems exploited that they were able to be hacked.

        You say that as if it is possible to create an unhackable OS with modern market and consumer demands.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • icon
          Uriel-238 (profile), 8 Mar 2017 @ 1:41pm

          create an unhackable OS...

          I really do, don't I?

          I'm pretty sure that while we couldn't make one that was completely unhackable (Kurt Gödel had a thing or to to say about that) there's a difference between the degree of open and exploitable we have now (which was cultured, with companies getting paid to intentionally delay zero-day alerts and fixes) and a system where exploits are short lived, once detected.

          We don't need a system that's completely invulnerable. We need a system that is invulnerable enough that it's expensive for the CIA to penetrate it and they're limited to attacks on persons of extreme interest.

          Then the bear rule applies: so long as there are more dangerous (more appealing) targets than ourselves, we need not worry about CIA attacks due to (say) mere dissent.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 8 Mar 2017 @ 1:28pm

      > the CIA is NOT listening to Americans through their television sets

      No, not LISTENING. Aggregating data collected to centralized servers where it's processed for easy retrieval with search functionality. Not nearly as invasive.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 8 Mar 2017 @ 1:35pm

      All this shit is just another fucking can of worms, once you open the box........

      Its the same mentality that brought the mass production of highly destructive weapons........we've learned nothing

      War criminals does'nt quite cut it, they've gone beyond it, and no signs of stopping.........i hate to think what 10 years of this is gonna look like............maybe we get lucky and someone with an iota of sense gets behind the wheel, and turns this bus around, away from that looming giant fucking crater......i mean, its pretty fucking hard to miss......i mean....COME ON!........its a giant fucking crater

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      TechDescartes (profile), 8 Mar 2017 @ 2:03pm

      451°F

      One day parents will tell their kids, "Go play outside. You're being watched by too much TV."

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Ryunosuke (profile), 8 Mar 2017 @ 2:28pm

      here's the thing, I think the "leaks" are actually a distraction by the Trump White House to deflect from his Russian buddies. The timing seems suspicious.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        Uriel-238 (profile), 8 Mar 2017 @ 5:00pm

        Distraction by Trump

        The chaos around the White House serves as a continuous whirlpool of distractions, within which Trump's agenda gets served, except that this chaos seems to extend to the WH staff. I think only Trump is used to working as if every day was take-out-the-trash day, and I think he's used to not really getting all that much done in such a maelstrom.

        It's possible that the leak release was timed to correspond with other events, but it will be hard to say until we see how they interact.

        The investigation of the White House administration and its interactions with Putin and the Russian administration is going to continue, and I suspect it will be slowed more by GOP obstructionism than by news distractions.

        More distressing is that the CIA can be hacked like this at all. If documents regarding their tools are inadequately secured, what else is already in malicious hands?

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      127.0.0.1 (profile), 8 Mar 2017 @ 4:23pm

      Don't be fooled.

      If you trust your id to the IoT, you become an idIoT.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Digitari, 8 Mar 2017 @ 5:37pm

      Fascinating

      The very People that are telling us the Russians "Hacked the election" are the same folks that have programs that make it look like the Russians hacked something...

      How Convenient

      Did we get the "least truthful" answers again??

      so, "fake news"?

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        Uriel-238 (profile), 9 Mar 2017 @ 1:22am

        "Least Untruthful Response"

        The White House has made so many claims since Trump's administration that have been verifiably counterfactual, I think Trump, and anyone from whom he commands total loyalty (e.g. Spicer, Conway) are the least truthful source. Of course, Trump has shown to have almost no grip on reality, so the White House may just be very, very, very inaccurate.

        Considering how post-Snowden, US government scared away a whole lot of viable hackers from state employment, it's very possible Russia has a stronger cyberwarfare sector than the US, even though the US has three agencies at least (FBI, CIA, NSA) that engage in cyberwarfare practices. Sadly, despite DHS' efforts to get them to play nice with each other, they really don't

        So by your (spurious) logic, Putin would be the least trustworthy, having at his hands the most hacking resources.

        Still, all that aside, Trump super keen to get cuddly with Russia, which is really contrary to US policy since Putin's been a total authoritarian and expansionist ass. Remember they're still in Crimea which they've annexed by force. It's that (and not Putin's record of assassinating a gagillion dissentors) that has the US State Department (and Europe, and the UN) sore at the Russian administration.

        Speaking of convenient, it is very convenient that the US has been reduced to a floundering buffoon. When Putin's army rolls into Estonia, Trump is going to be completely beside himself rather than organize a measured military response.

        Or are you thinking Estonia and most of Eastern Europe is not your problem?

        Maybe we'll get lucky and Mattis will handle it while Trump's staffers distract him from the telly.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • identicon
          Digitari, 9 Mar 2017 @ 4:39am

          Re: "Least Untruthful Response"

          It's Good that the world thinks the USA is "floundering bufoons", and with "madman" Trump in the Whitehouse, they won't try any crap because they think he just might push the button.
          (My nephew works for the NSA, I have not seen nor spoken to him in the last decade since he has had the job, I do, however, trust him)

          With the last 8 years of "The droner in Chief," the USA really cannot cast many aspersions.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

          • icon
            Uriel-238 (profile), 9 Mar 2017 @ 5:06pm

            Re: Re: "Least Untruthful Response"

            If by droner in Chief you mean to imply you disapprove of Obama's drone-strike programs in Afghanistan and Pakistan, I wholeheartedly agree.

            It's also a continuation of Bush's use of targeted killings in the war on terror, just with drones instead of Private Security Contractors. Same massacres, not as close-up-and-personal.

            Targeted Killings has been a US policy since we ceased using assassination as a military tactic, since it becomes too easy to use assassination for political or personal targets rather than military ones. The only problem is targeted killing has (almost) all of the same problems as assassination and then all of the problems of terror attacks. TKs targeting a guy just with bombs (or death squads) rather than a single sniper or ninja. And it leads to more civilian deaths.

            So I'm right there with you regarding our CIA drone strike programs.

            But calling Obama the Droner In Chief doesn't really contrast him to Trump (who's eager to continue drone-strikes, if not open new programs) and is way on board with extrajudicial detention and interrogation (e.g. capture and torture without due process) or really all of the war atrocities of Iraqi Freedom. Trump is keen to be the New Holocaust president.

            Regarding the thermonuclear problem, Trump is not the same madman that Nixon was, who was essentially playing good cop / bad cop alongside Kissinger to secure Strategic Arms Limitation Treaties (and put the fear of God into Ho Chi Minh).

            Trump with the US thermonuclear arsenal, in contrast, is closer to giving nukes to Caligula. We're less likely to see a nuclear attack on Russia, given Trump's irrational fondness of Putin (and the threat of severe retaliation). But he may well nuke Iran for the fun of it. Or Mexico. Or California. Because he's a real madman who has shown evidence of a severe disconnect regarding action and consequences.

            Regardless, Trump's insanity will only move forward Putin's expansionist ambitions, not slow them.

            And yes, the world trembles at the might of Trump the madman, knowing that any of us could be targets based on his whimsy and what he reads in Breitbart or Fox News.

            That's a state of destabilization and it's only a good thing in political thrillers, not IRL.

            reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

            • identicon
              Anonymous Coward, 10 Mar 2017 @ 6:33am

              Re: Re: Re: "Least Untruthful Response"

              Targeted Killings has been a US policy since we ceased using assassination as a military tactic

              The difference, other than name, being?

              reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

              • icon
                Uriel-238 (profile), 10 Mar 2017 @ 9:29pm

                Targeted Killings

                I thought it was implicit, but it's good to make things clear.

                An assassination involves a precise hit, say a sniper shot, or a spy with a gun or poisoned tea. Ideally there are no other casualties than the target.

                Targeted killing involves dropping a bomb or other large anti-personnel ordinance at the location where the target is allegedly on site. Bush would send in private security contractors as death squads to cleanse a zone of anyone alive.

                Obama's method during his administration was to use drone strikes, at least in Afghanistan and Pakistan. The CIA drone strike program in Afghanistan averaged 500 strikes a year at its nadir, but is tapering off. Meanwhile the Pakistan program is still accelerating.

                The difference between Assassinations and Targeted Killings is semantic. Assassinations are associated with political targets rather than military and are not considered ethical and involve a lot of blowback. But since a targeted killing technically targets not a person but the location, it allows for plausible deniability, and a strike can be called a success even if the intended target escapes.

                Really, one could write some good Catch-22-style military satire about targeted killings, given how somehow doing a hit with massive civilian casualties is less embarrassing to an industrialized state than doing the same hit with no casualties, because of how the mission is defined.

                reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

                • identicon
                  Anonymous Coward, 16 Mar 2017 @ 6:53am

                  Re: Targeted Killings

                  Kill one person, it's an assassination and bad. Kill a bunch of people, it's a "targeting killing" and good. In fact, the more the better.

                  That sounds kind of like steal 100 dollars and go to prison. Steal 100 million dollars and retire rich.

                  Same old same old.

                  reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

            • icon
              Uriel-238 (profile), 14 Mar 2017 @ 6:53am

              Drone Strikes

              ...and now Trump is looking to loosen rules of engagement regarding targeted killings with drone strikes.

              Same as the old boss.

              reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

          • icon
            Uriel-238 (profile), 9 Mar 2017 @ 5:12pm

            Regarding your nephew

            You may trust your nephew to do some semblance of the right thing at the NSA but I don't. I expect that he passes around uncovered private cheesecake photos much like the rest of the NSA interns. That's common practice according to Snowden, and been regarded as an accepted perk of spying assignments in espionage and law enforcement since the 50s. Even the TSA hands around particularly notable nude-scans for intra-office entertainment.

            I also expect he'd do his duty and report on people who's forth-amendment rights were just bypassed by a secret court, even if their crimes have nothing to do with whatever terror assignment is on. At this point it's accepted policy within the NSA to report uncovered suspect activity (and large amounts of seize-worthy assets) to local law enforcement.

            I'm sure your nephew is a good little soldier.

            reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Thad, 9 Mar 2017 @ 9:04am

        Re: Fascinating

        I don't even know what point you're trying to make. You're just slamming catchphrases together like they're drunks at a frat party.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Gallumhrasha, 8 Mar 2017 @ 5:45pm

      If the FBI and NSA director can lie in front of Congress, Im sure the former CIA director can easily lie in front of that fruit troll Colbert and his stupid sheep audience. Ill take trump over the deep state any day because he is exposing the monster within this country

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Dismembered3po (profile), 8 Mar 2017 @ 6:24pm

      Smart TVs

      Hayden:

      "We kill people based on Smart TVs.

      But that's not what we do with THESE Smart TVs."

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      drwho28 (profile), 9 Mar 2017 @ 9:45am

      names of programs

      I think that the intelligence community should continue naming their covert spy programs after various dr who villains. it will make them easier to hate as long as they continue to name them things like "weeping angels". nothing makes you more angry than associating spy programs with those beings who took our favorite whovian companions.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      stosh, 9 Mar 2017 @ 11:22am

      If you're not "smarter" than your refrigerator, America is doomed

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      K, 10 Mar 2017 @ 9:53am

      cia

      CIA, which actually stands for central idiot agency, is comprised [mostly] of, not all, reject Maxwell Smarts of television's spy spoof, also comprised of mostly idiot spies.

      I will however, make one distinction: is that least Maxwell Smart was a kind soul.

      The CIA is mostly filled with demonic serial killing, child killing, child torturing pedophiles.

      Some day soon, they will all be held accountable for each and every filthy and diabolical action they've taken against each and every child

      and all others they've tortured and murdered. But the CIA=anyone who is doing absolutely nothing about this damnable issue and who can. Includes anyone the world over as well.

      GET MOVING!!!

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      jaquer0 (profile), 11 Mar 2017 @ 8:29pm

      Camera and mic should be physically removable

      The only way cameras and mics can be considered secure is if they are physically removable, i.e., if they are an add-on module. Promises by the companies that their security is better are worthless, since they a) may get to the TV (or whatever) and break the protection before the consumer gets it or b) Hack it once in consumer's possession. Settings and even physical switches are worse than useless, as they can be bypassed. Physical removal is the only way.

      Not allowing the TV to connect to the Internet would lead to many limitations in functionality that consumers are unlikely to accept.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Just John (profile), 11 Apr 2017 @ 1:24am

      Really, no one?

      I remember the old saying:
      In Communist Russia, your TV watches you.

      I guess now it is:
      In Democratic US, your TV watches you.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        Uriel-238 (profile), 11 Apr 2017 @ 12:33pm

        Re: Really, no one?

        In corporate US, TV watches you.

        I don't think we take seriously the notion that we're a democracy anymore. Some people have been corrected on these forums America is a republic

        According to the Oxford study, it's behaved mostly as a corporate oligarchy since the early 20th century. And the rate of corruption is still a net positive, so that government agencies increasingly follow the will of corporate interests rather than public interests.

        In the failed democracy, the United States of America, TV watches you. (As do all our appliances and devices.)

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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