How to Protect Yourself From CIA Spying
You have probably heard about the Central Intelligence Agency’s hacking attempts thanks to the WikiLeaks publication. In it, there were details about how the CIA is hacking into almost every type of tech product on the market, including Samsung televisions, iPhones, Android devices, and Wi-Fi routers.
The question is this…what does it mean to you?
Well, you probably think it means nothing at all unless you are a target of the CIA, right? You might be right, but you aren’t considering the entire story here. Though the programs and techniques that were outlined by WikiLeaks were created to spy on terrorists, the secret’s out on how they did it, and you can guarantee that other hackers are using this information to get into the devices of everyday people like you. The main way they are doing that is by finding vulnerabilities in the devices, and most of the time, these vulnerabilities come from outdated software.
What Is the CIA Really Doing?
Before we get into how you can protect yourself, it’s important that you understand how the CIA is using these tools and what they are doing with them.
According to the WikiLeaks report, the CIA is using the tools they have to break into different electronic devices, including televisions, tablets, and smartphones. This, of course, is raising massive concerns about privacy.
Allegedly, the whistle-blowers pulled the files directly from the CIA, and there are over 8,700 of them that were released. This is huge because it's much higher than the number of files that Edward Snowden’s NSA leaks produced in three years. These new leaks, now known as the “Vault 7” document release, show us how easy it is to not only hack into our devices, but also how we have very little security when it comes to our devices.
The leak also shows us that the CIA is able to do things like pin the blame on other countries or organizations for cyber attacks.
WikiLeaks has also said that it will give details of all of the cyber weapons the CIA has access to. However, the informing body will first give the information to technology companies in an effort to give them a head start on creating software to beat the hacks.
The CIA, and any other spy organization out there, is likely looking for any vulnerability in security software, and then looking for ways to exploit those vulnerabilities. Again, and this is important, our devices are not as safe as we think they are, and they could be spying on our every move. What’s more is that the Vault 7 documents are only from 2013 to 2016, so there could be a lot more information out there that we don’t know about.
So, even if you don’t think you are going to be a target of the CIA, what about other organizations or just general hackers? Odds are much better that you will be a target of these people. Thus, it’s extremely important that you learn how to protect yourself.
Below, you can find information on protecting yourself as much as possible depending on which type of device you are using. Even if you don’t use a particular device, it might be worth your while to read it all, as this is pretty serious, and you want to make sure you are doing as much as you can to keep your information safe from hackers… and the CIA.
Protecting Yourself on Android Devices
If you are one of the hundreds of millions of people who use an Android device, ask yourself a question. Which version of the operating system are you using? If you are using an older version of the Google-made operating system, you could be in trouble. You see, when the WikiLeaks document was examined, there were over 7,800 web pages and almost 1,000 attachments that show the Android devices that were targeted by hacking software were running a single version of the operating system…Android 4.0.
Did you check your device? You should. Google estimates that about 30 percent of all Android users, which equates to about 420 million people, are using some variation of Android 4.0. Google is also focusing on investigating all reports of any security issue that was noted in the WikiLeaks release, but what’s done is done.
With the info we have at this point, the best thing that you can do is to stop holding off on updating your mobile device software. Not only should you make sure your operating system is up to date, you should also make sure your apps are as current as possible.
If you have an older Android device, this might be easier said, than done. For instance, older devices such as the Samsung Galaxy S3, can’t download the latest software. So, if you are in this situation, it is probably a good idea to upgrade to a new smartphone. You don’t have to get an expensive one, of course, just make sure you can load it with the latest software and security updates.
The final thing that you should do if you use an Android device is to make sure that you are using the lock screen and the PIN code features. You should also consider using the Verify Apps setting on the device. This will scan any app that is downloaded from a source outside of the Google App store. This is the best way to keep malware off of your device.
Protecting Yourself on iOS Devices
When it comes to updating devices, iPhone and iOS users are much better at keeping their devices up to date. So, if you have an iPhone, iPad, or other device, odds are your device is already updated with the latest version of the iOS operating system. However, you should definitely check, just to make sure.
When we look at the documents supplied by WikiLeaks in regards to the iOS operating systems, we see that people who are using iOS 9 or 10, which is about 84 percent of all iOS users, are generally not targeted. When we look at the numbers, there are more than a billion iOS-powered devices in the world, so about 50 million people are using outdated software…these are the people who should worry.
Even if you have iOS 9, consider updating to iOS 10, which is the latest version of the iOS software. Also, many people will update their iPhones, but forget to update their iPads. Make sure to do both. Apple released a statement soon after the leak saying that most of the security issues that were noted from the WikiLeak documents were already patched. They are working hard to address any other issues, too.
Like the Android devices mentioned above, there are some Apple devices that cannot download the latest iOS 10 operating system. If you have an iPhone 5, iPhone 6, or iPhone 7, or any version of those, you can download the latest iOS. If you have an iPad Air or newer, or an iPad Mini 2 or newer, you are also good. However, if you use an Apple device older than those, it’s probably time to update to a new device, which will give you more security.
Protecting Yourself With Your Samsung TV
If you have a Samsung television, you also have to be vigilant, but the situation isn’t as clear as it is with mobile devices. The WikiLeaks documents show that there are hacking programs that are mostly attacking the Samsung F8000 series, which have microphones to enable voice controls. Some specific Samsung models affected include the UNES7550F, E8000GF plasma, UNF7000, and UNES8000F.
Samsung announced that it is looking into these reports and says that all security updates are automatic, so users don’t have to update their devices. However, Samsung did not comment on any patches that may have already been released.
How is a television being used to spy on you? Well, there is a tool called “Weeping Angel,” that makes the television seems as if it is off, but it is actually recording sounds, including conversations, and then sending them to a CIA computer.
So, what can you do? Well, we aren’t sure yet. You can always unplug it. And make sure not to discuss any plans you may have to militaristically take over the government near your TV. Smile wink wink!
It’s always a good idea to strengthen security in your Wi-Fi settings, and of course, making your television regularly updates, which again, it does automatically. If you are concerned about this, you also might want to contact Samsung to discuss how they are handling the information that was given to them by WikiLeaks. In this case, and not only with Samsung, but with all smart TVs on the market, we are facing a situation where they have advanced too quickly to fully monitor. So, perhaps it’s time to put on the brakes of innovation and ensure consumers are safe with what’s out there.
Protecting Yourself With Your Router
In addition to everything above, the WikiLeaks docs also explained methods of placing malware into routers. The routers affected were generally those made in Asia, such as Mercury, Huawei, and ZTE.
In general, it’s best for everyone to make sure that their router’s software is up to date, and that the best security enhancements are applied.
Depending on the type of router you have, you might have access to an app that will help you download updates when they become available. If you are worried about this, upgrade to a better router.
Protecting Yourself With Your Computer
Finally, the WikiLeaks docs also mentioned attacks on Windows, Apple, and Linux computers. Bottom line, our personal computers are all extremely vulnerable. So, the best thing you can do is to use an antivirus software and make sure that you are updating your operating system and all software as soon as a new updates are available.
Also, you should keep the following in mind:
- Stop using Internet Explorer. It’s not updated, and very dangerous. Instead, use Chrome, Edge, or Firefox.
- An antivirus is not enough. You should have it, but it’s not the end all, be all of computer security. Don’t take risks, like opening unknown files, just because you have an antivirus program on your computer.
- Speaking of, don’t open emails from sources you aren’t familiar with and don’t click links in emails unless you are absolutely sure of where they go.
- Don’t visit websites that are not secure.
And as always, stay on guard for suspicious websites that may be serving malware.